UP professors emeriti denounce termination of UP-DND accord

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2021 04:51 AM

UP professors emeriti denounce termination of UP-DND accord 1
Students and professors hold a symbolic protest at the University of the Philippines-Oblation Plaza in UP Diliman, Quezon City on January 26, 2021. The group of professors and students questioned the abrogation of the UP-DND accord which requires prior notification before military and police personnel are allowed to conduct operation inside the university. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Professors emeriti or retired faculty members of University of Philippines Diliman castigated the move of the Department of National Defense's to abrogate its long-time agreement with UP on the entry of state forces.

In a letter to the school's board of regents Monday, UP-Diliman professors emeriti strongly protested the "untenable" termination of the UP-DND accord, which was signed between government and the university in 1989.

Under the agreement, the university required prior notification before police and military personnel could enter and conduct operations in the school's campuses.

"The letter of abrogation provides no specific instances and no supporting proof of where, when, and how the agreement failed—especially on UP’s part. And instead of giving the University community a clear idea of what the military intends to do on campus in lieu of the agreement—the new rules of engagement, as it were—we are left to anticipate, with grave apprehension, the return of the kind of authoritarian policing that we suffered under martial law," they said.

The retired professors said that the DND's tagging of UP as a “safe haven for terrorists” and its efforts to hold the school responsible for the death of some of its students at the hands of government forces "ignores a much larger aspect of UP that has consistently striven for peace, justice, and development in our society."

"We bemoan those tragic deaths, which we lay at the feet of the social ills that provoked the decisions those students took, and which we as a nation must seek to address. But we cannot allow them to be trivialized into a pretext to threaten academic freedom," they said.

The retired UP professors branded the move as part of efforts by the military and security forces to subjugate governance in state campuses and coerce academic administrators "no matter how unreasonable or contrary to time-honored academic practice." 

"Our military institutions—and even our highest academic and administrative officials—must be reminded that UP is an intellectual meritocracy, as great universities should be, which is how it can best serve the nation," they said.

"We Professors Emeriti have served this University for most of our working lives, and have devoted our time and talents to the improvement of the Filipino future. We continue to work for our people’s peace and prosperity, and leave behind generations of students imbued with the same ideals of honor and excellence. We wield no power but that of our minds and our experience—which our government, business and industry, and society at large have freely drawn upon.

"But at this crucial point in our beloved UP’s history, we feel compelled to speak as a body, organizing ourselves into an Oblation Forum, in defense of the need to keep UP—all our constituent universities—as a safe space for intellectual inquiry, without fear of external and internal threats from whatever source. We draw particular attention to the need for acknowledging our faculty as the prime authority with regard to their disciplinal expertise, and for this principle to be respected in all matters of academic governance. This, too, is a basic element in the operationalization of academic freedom," they said.

The retired UP professors called on Commission on Higher Education chairman Prospero de Vera, a UP alumnus himself, to join them in strengthening the "ramparts of our academic freedom" and "uphold meritocracy over mediocrity, and collegial self-governance over authoritarian diktat."

"We extend the honorable members of the Board our best wishes and our pledge of assistance in this fight ahead, and will await, with keen attention, your next decisions and actions on the issues facing the UP community," they said.

Their statement comes more than a week after Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana sent a letter of his own to UP President Danilo Concepcion, notifying the latter on the termination of the agreement, claiming that communist rebels have been using UP as a “shield” for their on-campus recruitment. 

University and student officials have denied this, and in turn, accused the government for boosting its alleged efforts to subdue civil rights of students and the UP community.

Four senators last week filed a bill seeking to amend the University of the Philippines (UP) Charter of 2008 so it could include guidelines on police and military operations, similar to the ones in the 1989 accord between UP and the Department of National Defense (DND).

But De Vera said it was unnecessary to legislate accords between universities and state forces as such agreements can be discussed by both parties.

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