VICE President Leni Robredo on Tuesday slammed the scrapping by the Department of National Defense of its treaty with the University of the Philippines, saying the move will do more harm than good.

/ 20 January 2021

VICE President Leni Robredo on Tuesday slammed the scrapping by the Department of National Defense of its treaty with the University of the Philippines, saying the move will do more harm than good.

This came after DND issued a ‘unilateral scrapping’ of the UP-DND accord in a bid to crack down on ‘terrorists’ hiding within the grounds of UP.

“This is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism,” Robredo said.

She added that the unilateral scrapping of the decades-old accord sends the message that “under this administration, anyone, anywhere, at any time, is fair game.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated the pact that barred uniformed personnel from entering UP campuses, saying the university has become a place of communist recruitment.

Robredo urged people to speak out about the issue and stand firm with their beliefs.

The UP-DND accord was signed in 1989 to prevent military troops from entering UP campuses.

Desperate measure Several youth groups also slammed the DND’s move.

The College Editors Guild of Philippines called the termination of the accord a “desperate measure” to silence critical voices of dissent.

“The termination of the accord will only perpetuate the dire threats of red-baiting, campus militarization, and open more windows for abuse to prosper,” CEGP said in a statement.

The League of Filipino Students said that the DND’s action stemmed from the Anti-Terrorism Law which justifies surveillance and harassment of student-activists and government critics.

“Ito ay isa na namang panibagong tangka ng rehimeng Duterte na supilin ang kabataang estudyante at ang mamamayang Filipino na ipinaglalaban ang demokrasya at karapatang pantao sa gitna ng walang habas na pang-aatake ng rehimen sa ating mga batayang karapatan,” LFS said.

The UP College of Mass Communication Student Council said that abrogating the agreement is a dangerous precedent to “more terroristic horrors.”

“Even when the accord was still in place, armed forces still found the audacity to violate its provisions through disguised surveillance. Boldly and unilaterally declaring the document void shows their greed for power and will give more liberty to the administration to spread fascist maneuvers,” it said.

Meanwhile, UP Baguio’s University Student Council challenged UP President Danilo Concepcion to uphold student’s democratic rights by fighting the unilateral agreement and its grave implications.

“The choice of our students and faculty to criticize, express grievances and struggle for betterment of society should be an undeniable right as citizens of this nation. Our proactive expression is our commitment in serving the people and building a better nation,” it said.

No protectors

Youth group Anakbayan said the unilateral termination of the agreement will introduce not a climate of critical thinking and nation-building but an atmosphere of silence and paranoia.

“The AFP and PNP were never the youth’s protectors. Militarization of campus grounds never made the students feel secured. Quite the contrary. State forces have been known to clandestinely spy on student-leaders, which unfortunately lead to the collection of their personal information and even abduction, torture and death for some,” Vinz Simon, the group’s secretary general, said in a statement.

The group blasted the government for making its priority the persecution of critics and dissenters “instead of implementing medical, scientific and mass-oriented concrete solutions to the current health and socio-economic crisis brought by Covid19.”

“This suppression is not new among students, but as it continues, their resistance will flare up to oppose tyrannical rule. Duterte is mirror-image of his idol Ferdinand Marcos, who, like him, will be ousted anytime soon enough,” Simon added.