/ 21 January 2021

OFFICIALS and students of different campuses of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas condemned the scrapping of the 1989 accord between the Department of National Defense and the University of the Philippines without prior notice.

In a statement, UP-Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano said that academic freedom in the university is “not something anyone can abrogate.”

“The University of the Philippines Visayas, like the rest of the UP System, will remain a bastion of academic freedom. This is not something anyone can abrogate. We will stand firm against any and all attempts to deprive us of our democratic rights,” Camposano said.

Camposano recalled the tumultuous history between UP and the DND as the cause of the university’s apprehension, saying that many wounds “have yet to heal.”

“While the DND has given assurances that constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms would not be suppressed, these historical events and the sordid reality of recent killings, abductions, and other forms of human rights abuses widely believed to have been perpetrated by security forces cannot but leave us unassured,” Composano said.

He called on members of the UPV “to be steadfast and resolute in the defense of their democratic rights, and in ensuring that the University campuses remain free, safe, and welcoming towards a wide range of ideas and advocacies.”

He also urged Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana “to return to the path of reason and reconsider this unilateral and ill-conceived abrogation.”

Meanwhile, the Unified Student Organizations of UP Cebu, along with the University Student Council, the All UP Academic Employees Union, and the university’s student publication Tug-ani came out with a joint statement condemning the termination.

They said that even before the scrapping of the 1989 DND-UP accord, UP System universities in the Visayas have long decried unwarranted military and police presence in their campuses.

They cited the arrest of eight protesters during a rally against the anti-terror bill held in front of the UP Cebu campus in June 2020.

“The termination of the landmark agreement legitimizes further attacks and harassment against members of the UP community, as well as empowering state forces to stifle our basic Constitutional right to dissent,” they added.

Despite the government’s assurance that the accord’s termination was not meant to suppress activism and academic freedom, the coalition said they have not forgotten about the arrest of Cebu 8.

“We remember the violent dispersal of the June 5th protest against the then Anti-Terrorism Bill last year, wherein armed non-uniformed PNP personnel chased protesters inside the campus and groundlessly detained 8 individuals, including a bystander, now collectively known as the Cebu 8,” the coalition said.

Videos of the arrest posted on social media showed police breaching the walls of UP Cebu to chase students and activists seeking refuge inside the campus.

“For the DND to end this accord is already an admission of either their ignorance of the country’s history or their blatant disrespect of the martyrs who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today and now the Duterte administration is desperately trying to snatch away from us again,” they said.

In UP-Tacloban, students and professors also decried the decision of Lorenzana to end the accord.

Ladylyn Lim, a senior faculty member of UP-Tacloban, said the government is making moves that tend to weaken or trample democratic values instead of focusing on the Covid19 pandemic.

“UP-Tacloban constituents will remain committed to a stronger voice for a healthy democracy and we need to strengthen democratic values in these difficult times,” Lim said.