/ 20 January 2021

THE DEPARTMENT of National Defense has unilaterally terminated its agreement with the University of the Philippines that for decades prevented the entry of members of the military inside the campus.

In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the accord is a “hindrance” in providing effective security and safety to the students, faculty, and employees of the university.

Lorenzana said recent incidents proved that some UP students and alumni became members of the Communist Party of the Philippines or its armed-wing the New People’s Army — branded as terrorist entities by the government.

What is the UP-DND accord?

The UP-DND accord was an agreement signed on June 30, 1989 by then-UP president Jose Abueva and then-defense chief Fidel V. Ramos that laid down the guidelines on military and police operations inside the university.

A similar agreement, known as the Soto-Enrile accord, was signed in 1982. The signatories of the said agreement were student leader Sonia Soto and then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.

The agreement also prohibits members of the police or military from entering UP campuses “except in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency.”

The 1989 accord was signed after the “abduction” of former Philippine Collegian Staff Donato Continente inside the university, UP Professor and journalist Danilo Arao said.

Continente was taken by authorities and was “tortured and forced to confess” to the murder of an American soldier.

Arao said the 1989 agreement was signed 14 days after the incident.

“As a news writer of the Philippine Collegian, I remember the abduction of our staff Donato Continente on the night of June 16 at Vinzons Hall. He was tortured and forced to confess to the killing of Col. James Rowe. This is why the UP-DND accord was signed 14 days later,” Arao said in a Tweet.

“The signing of the UP-DND accord is meant to stop the military and police from abducting UP constituents like Donato Continente who was then our staff at the Philippine Collegian. To terminate the accord is to legalize the deplorable,” he added.

What are the provisions of the agreement?

The agreement states that:

  • Prior notification shall be given to the UP administration by the military or police before they could conductany operations inside the UP campuses.
  • Except in “cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency,” no military or police shall enter the premises of the UP campuses.
  • When the UP administration asks for security assistance from the troops, only uniformed personnel of the military and police can enter the campus premises.
  • Members of the military and police “shall not interfere with peaceful protest actions” by the UP community in their campus.
  • The service of search warrants to any UP student, faculty, employee, or invited participant in any UP activity shall as far as predictable be done after prior notification to the UP President, or Chancellor of the campus, or the Dean of the regional unit.
  • The arrest or detention of any student, faculty, or employee anywhere in the Philippines, shall be reported immediately to the UP administration. No members of the UP community shall be subjected to custodial investigation without prior notice of the university administration.
  • A joint monitoring group composed of the UP Faculty Regent, UP Student Regent, UP administration officials, and officials from the military and police shall meet twice a year to determine compliance with the agreement.
  • Nothing in the agreement “shall be construed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land.”

Termination of UP-DND accord has no legal basis

For UP Law Professorial Lecturer Antonio La Viña, the unilateral termination of the accord has no legal basis and “is just but a part of the government’s long standing crusade to silence anyone who is opposed to its views.”

La Viña, then president of the UP Law Student Government when the accord was signed, argued that the 1989 accord is based on UP’s academic freedom, enshrined not just in its Charter (Republic Act No. 9500) but also in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

La Viña explained that academic freedom “includes the right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public interest calls for some restraint.”

“DND, in its letter, has failed to show any overriding public interest to interfere with UP’s academic freedom. It did not show any clear and present danger which can limit a student or a professor’s civil liberty to freely think and express his or her view,” La Viña said.

“The letter just red-tagged students who are fearlessly standing up for what they believe in,” he added.

La Viña also maintained that the DND has no right to unilaterally terminate the agreement as the accord did not provide an exit clause.

Defend Academic Freedom

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago slammed the DND for ignoring the role of educational institutions in upholding human rights and democracy.

“This brazen step signals intensified attacks on academic freedom, and violations of rights of students, faculty, personnel resisting tyranny and fascism,” Elago said.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines called the termination of the UP-DND accord a “desperate measure of the current administration in silencing critical voices of dissent.”

“The following terms of the UP-DND accord are but an excuse of the Duterte regime to layout its counter-insurgency measures within the university and herald its anti-people policies promulgated within the current Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Hence, the termination of the aforementioned accord will only perpetuate the dire threats of red-baiting, campus militarization, and open more windows for abuse to prosper,” the CEGP said in its statement.

Lorenzana’s defense

Defense Secretary Lorenzana, meanwhile, clarified that the DND will not set up military or police outposts inside the campuses “nor suppress activist groups, academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

He insisted that the move was made to protect students and the UP community from “extremism and armed struggles.”

“The DND will not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly and free speech,” Lorenzana said.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, meanwhile, backed the DND’s decision, stressing that the scrapping of the 1989 deal between the DND and UP was “long overdue.”

“It is long overdue. The government was fooled by the CCP/NPA/NDFP in the last 31 years thru that agreement,” Dela  Rosa said.