All universities should have pact regulating campus access of state forces: UP exec

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2021 04:52 PM

All universities should have pact regulating campus access of state forces: UP exec 1
University of the Philippines (UP) students hold a protest at the Quezon Hall in UP Diliman on February 01, 2021, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Diliman Commune. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – To ensure academic freedom, all universities should have an agreement that regulates police and military operations inside their campuses, similar to the recently abrogated pact between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND), an official from the state university said Thursday.

“What’s so special about UP? We should have the same agreement for all universities so that academic freedom in all universities is respected and protected,” UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said in a webinar.

Nemenzo was referring to the 1989 UP-DND Agreement, which Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana recently abrogated unilaterally, saying communist rebels were using the pact as a “shield” for their on-campus recruitment of students.

“It’s about time we talk with other universities. Our concerns are their concerns as well,” Nemenzo said.

Lawyer Theodore Te, an alumnus of the state university, said such an agreement could be institutionalized by going to court or through Congress.

“If Congress simply legislates it into all the charters of the SUCs (state universities and colleges) and UP or makes it available to all universities, then it's there,” said Te, formerly spokesperson of the Supreme Court.

The UP alumni present at the webinar also rejected claims that the state university was a haven of recruitment for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

While UP exposes its students to various political beliefs, the university should not take the blame if a student decides to join a certain political group, said Soledad Derequito-Mawis, dean of the Lyceum of the Philippines University College of Law.

“If some of the UP students turn left, right or stay in the middle, UP is not to blame,” she said.

“Every group tries to recruit students. I don’t know of recruitment into the CPP-NPA but definitely there’s recruitment from the left and the right but these are decisions that students make and we respect those decisions,” Nemenzo said.

Mawis also questioned how UP could remain “an atmosphere conducive to learning and the free flow of ideas when… a professor’s critical thinking may be erroneously labelled and tagged as leftist.”

“The sudden and unilateral abrogation of the UP-DND Accord does not reassure safety but instead sows fear in the hearts of the professors and students,” she said.

Lorenzana earlier said he asked for a meeting with UP President Danilo Concepcion over the abrogation of the accord.

Several senators have filed a bill seeking to amend the UP Charter to include guidelines on military and police operations inside the university, similar to the ones under the 1989 pact.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, filed a bill that would give the administration of state universities “primary responsibility” to ensure order in their campuses, among them the granting of permission for the entry of uniformed personnel in their compound.

A military official also recently accused 18 universities and colleges of being hotbeds for communist recruitment—a claim which some of the schools denied.