Lorenzana open to dialogue with UP but wants answers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he is open to a dialogue with University of the Philippines officials, but added university officials should explain about the presence of students in encounters with rebels.

"I am open to a dialogue with them. I appreciate the intercession of a lot of well-meaning people... I am willing to talk to him (UP President Danilo Concepcion), pero sagutin muna nila kung bakit namatay ang mga taong ito na kasama ng NPA," he said in a briefing, referring to the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

[Translation: I am open to a dialogue with them. I appreciate the intercession of a lot of well-meaning people... I am willing to talk to him, but he must answer first why these people died with the NPA.]

Lorenzana said UP students were killed in encounters with the military.

"Explain to me, bakit nangyari ito sa kanila [why did this happen to them]? Why did they fail to protect these young kids from joining this organization, then they get killed? If they can explain that, we can talk. If not, then forget it," he said.

"What makes UP so special to have this kind of agreement?" Lorenzana said.

Then-UP president Jose Abueva and then-Defense chief Fidel V. Ramos signed the accord on June 30, 1989. It laid down guidelines on military and police operations inside the university.

In a letter addressed to Concepcion, Lorenzana said the Defense department scrapped a 1989 deal with UP to protect students from CPP-NPA recruitment.

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

This decision has been met with criticism, and on Tuesday, senators filed a resolution opposing the termination of the accord.

Lawmakers also urged the DND and UP to engage in a dialogue and "find a common ground that promotes peace and security, and protects academic freedom, and the pursuit of excellence."

However, the move also has its supporters, among them President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Si Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana is an alter ego of the President. Of course, the President supports the decision of Secretary Lorenzana," Roque said during his briefing on Tuesday.

For his part, Concepcion issued a statement urging Lorenzana to recall his decision..