/ 19 May 2021

THE NATIONAL Union of Students of the Philippines lambasted Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero de Vera III for saying that the accord between the Department of National Defense and University of the Philippines was problematic.

“He continues to insinuate that the UP-DND accord will not solve anything when it comes to security, and that the lack of security forces in UP can be addressed by the presence of police and military forces,” NUSP President Jandeil Roperos said.

“Security coming from the DND seems like an oxymoron. How can we expect law enforcers to uphold the law and recognize our constitutional rights when they are the very people breaking it?” she added.

On Monday, May 17, the House committee on technical and higher education tackled House Bills 8437, 8514, and 8545, which sought to amend Republic Act 9500, otherwise known as the UP Charter of 2008.

The amendments included the provisions agreed upon in the scrapped accord, such as the need for the police and the military to inform the UP administration before entering its campuses, the limitation of the service of arrest and search warrants and the prohibition of interfering with protests.

During the hearing, De Vera said that aspects of the law and order should be considered and not just the issue of academic freedom in discussing the accord.

Citing the multiple burglaries he experienced while living inside UP Diliman, De Vera noted he does not feel safe inside the campus with or without the accord.

Roperos, however, said that the termination of the pact is a threat to academic freedom and provides leeway to red-tagging and harassments.

“The notorious red-tagging activities that vilify individuals and groups who express defiance against rights and welfare attacks are spearheaded by the same institution tasked to provide security, the DND,” she said.

“From Committee meetings to Senate hearings, from its own social media platforms to conducting caravans in schools guised under the NSTP program, from red-tagging professionals to community pantries, the DND grabs any chance to spout ludicrous allegations as a lame cover-up for the huge lack of government proactivity,” she added.

Roperos said that De Vera continues to “wash his hands” by declaring that he is only a mediator between UP and DND.

“In light of threats to academic freedom, CHED, do you want to be a slave of silence? Do you dare to wash your hands clean from the dirt thrown to academic institutions and students by state forces?” she asked.