MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) has unilaterally ended a decades-old agreement with the University of the Philippines (UP), which prohibits state forces from conducting operations inside the state university’s campuses without prior notice to the school administration.
The accord was signed in 1989 between then UP President Jose Abueva and then Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, establishing guidelines on military and police operations inside the university. The abrogation, thus, allows state authorities to enter UP campuses at any time.
In a Facebook post, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes said the agreement was made following the June 16, 1989 arrest of Donato Continente, a staffer of university publication The Philippine Collegian.
“Sapilitan siyang sinakay sa kotse at hindi agad natunton ng mga kasamahan niya ang kanyang kinaroonan. Ayon kay Donat, siya ay nakaranas ng interogasyon at tortyur at pilit na pinaamin sa kasalanan na hindi naman niya ginawa,” Reyes said in his post.
(He was forced into a car and his companions could not immediately locate his whereabouts. Donat said he was interrogated, tortured, and forced to admit to a crime that he did not commit.)
Continente was accused of killing an American soldier, James Rowe, and imprisoned for 14 years until the Supreme Court decided to shorten his jail sentence, Reyes said.
The incident sparked discussions on the conduct of police and military operations inside UP, which are violations of UP’s academic freedom that is enshrined in the 2008 UP Charter.
The 1989 accord succeeded the 1982 agreement signed by student leader Sonia Soto and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, which aimed to protect the university from military intervention, especially during protests.
Based on a copy uploaded by the Philippine Collegian, here are the contents of the 1989 accord:
• The military or police shall give prior notice to the school administration before conducting operations in any of the UP campuses
• No military or police shall enter the premises of any of the UP campuses “except in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency.”
• The military or police will be allowed to enter UP campuses in case the school administration requests for their assistance
• The military or police “shall not interfere with peaceful protest actions by UP constituents within UP premises.”
• The service of search or arrest warrants on any UP student, faculty, employee or invited participants in any official UP activity shall, as far as practicable, be done after prior notification is given to the UP President, Chancellor of the constituent university, or Dean of the concerned regional unit.
• No warrant shall be served without the presence of at least 2 UP faculty members designated by the appropriate UP official.
• The arrest or detention of any UP student, faculty or personnel anywhere in the Philippines shall be reported immediately by the responsible head of the military or police unit effecting the arrest or detention to the university official.
• No UP student, faculty or employee shall be subjected to custodial investigation without prior notice to the school administration.
• A joint monitoring group composed of the UP Faculty Regent, UP Student Regent, UP Vice President for Public Affairs or [their] representative, UP Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and military and police officials shall meet at least twice a year to determine compliance with the accord.
• Nothing in the agreement “shall be constructed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land.”
Reyes added that the agreement provides safeguards against abuses and human rights violations.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sent a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, notifying the latter about the immediate termination of the accord. A copy of the letter was published Monday by the UP Office of the Student Regent and student publication Philippine Collegian.
In the letter, Lorenzana said the department found the agreement “a hindrance in providing effective security, safety and welfare” to the UP community, claiming that “there is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership” in the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army.
Lorenzana said the UP-DND accord “is being used by the CPP/NPA recruiters and supporters as a shield or propaganda so the government law enforcers are barred from conducting operations” against the rebels, though he did not offer evidence.
Concepcion has asked Lorenzana to reconsider and revoke the termination of the agreement, inviting the defense chief for a meeting to discuss his concerns on the UP community’s safety.
Several university officials have denounced the DND’s move as an assault against UP’s academic freedom.
Last November, the UP administration denied President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that it recruits students for the communist insurgency.