UP accord terminated to protect Filipinos vs 'enemies of the state' – Lorenzana

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday justified the Duterte administration's decision to abruptly end the Department of National Defense's agreement with the University of the Philippines that prohibits the entry of state forces in its campuses without prior notice.

He claimed the three-decade old agreement accorded to UP out of courtesy is now obsolete because there is a need to protect the majority of Filipinos against a university that has become a "breeding ground" of groups with extremist beliefs to recruit students to go against the government.

"The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state. The Department of National Defense will neither renege nor shirk on its duty to protect the rights of the majority. It will not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly, and free speech," he said in a statement.

Lorenzana also said UP cannot be given special treatment and be regarded like the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean Peninsula, where the military cannot enter without coordination.

"What makes UP so special? We are not your enemies. We are here to protect our people, especially our youth," he said in a tweet.

Philippine National Police Chief Debold Sinas expressed support for the DND's decision, saying the deal failed to serve its purpose.

"The agreement between the DND and UP that limits police and military presence in all its campuses nationwide did not serve the best interest of public order and security in all 30 years that the accord was in effect," he said in a statement.

The top cop vowed that the law will be observed at all times regardless of the termination of the accord. He said the PNP would respond to reports of police abuse in the UP campuses.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who previously served as PNP Chief, said the military and police should come up with an agreement with UP on boundaries to be observed now that the agreement has been scrapped. He said this will ensure that it will not affect the culture of academic freedom in the state university.

"If it is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms being enjoyed by UP in general, you can describe it as that – overstepping," he said.

In a letter made public on Monday, DND informed UP officials that it is ending the 1989 accord that barred the police and military from entering any of its campuses without notifying school officials, citing the supposed "clandestine recruitment" of students in communist organizations. The letter, however, said that no military nor police personnel would be stationed inside campuses.

The UP-DND Accord states that prior to entering any UP campus, the military and police must give notice to university officials. An earlier agreement, inked by student leader Sonia Soto and ex-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile in 1982, protected the autonomy of the university from military intervention.

Soto said it is now time for the "iskolar ng bayan" to fight back against the government's decision to end the agreement that protects students.

"We fought hard from 1977-1982 for what we called democratic reform movement in campuses nationwide... It's now the Iska/Iskos of today's turn to fight for this historic accord," she said in a statement.

UP President Danilo Concepcion urged Lorenzana to reconsider his decision and revoke the abrogation.

"I must express our grave concern over this abrogation, as it is totally unnecessary and unwarranted, and may result in worsening rather than improving relations between our institutions, and detract from our common desire for peace, justice, and freedom in our society," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Vice President Leni Robredo, some lawmakers, and progressive youth groups also denounced the DND's sudden decision to abrogate the agreement.

RELATED: Lawmakers, youth groups denounce termination of UP-DND pact

The Duterte administration has repeatedly red-tagged students of UP. President Rodrigo Duterte has accused the state university of recruiting students to join the communist insurgency. He previously threatened to defund UP after confusion following calls of academic strike.