Robredo, lawmakers denounce termination of UP-DND pact

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — Vice President Leni Robredo, several lawmakers, and progressive youth groups denounced the Department of National Defense's decision to abrogate its three-decade agreement with the University of the Philippines that bars uniformed personnel from entering UP campuses without notifying school officials.

The Duterte administration's unilateral termination of the deal is clearly meant to silence the government's critics, Robredo said Tuesday, pointing out that the accord simply asks law enforcers to give notice to the university before conducting any security operations inside their campuses.

"This is neither a difficult nor onerous rule... Clearly, then, 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," she said.

The vice president believes that the public will take a stand against the government's disregard for the safeguard established to protect dissenting students.

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.

RELATED: UP accord terminated to protect majority vs 'enemies of the state,' defense chief says

Senator Francis Pangilinan, a former UP Diliman University Student Council chairperson, emphasized the historical significance of the UP-DND accord which was signed in 1989 to prevent student activists in the campus from being arrested.

“UP has always been and will always be a citadel of freedom and democracy. Please don’t mess with UP,” tweeted Pangilinan.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, also a UP Diliman graduate, blasted the Defense Department 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,” tweeted Elago, while calling for an end to campus militarization.

Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, now a professor at the UP Diliman National College of Public Administration and Governance, said the government’s act to terminate the pact can worsen the insurgency problem that has existed since the rule of dictator, former president Ferdinand Marcos.

“These are the kinds of acts that worsened the insurgency problem during the Marcos regime. We should have learned by now that purely military actions will not solve this very complicated problem,” Trillanes tweeted.

The League of Filipino Students said the abrogation of the accord is an attempt by the Duterte administration to attack academic freedom and is a way to enforce the Anti-Terrorism Law that can be used to silence student activists.

“Sa kasalukuyan, ang kinakaharap ng mga kabataang estudyante ay hindi nalalayo sa hinarap ng LFS noong rehimeng Marcos. Nasa tungkulin natin bilang mga kabataang estudyante na tumindig at ipaglaban ang karapatan ng mga mamamayang Pilipino,” the group said in a video statement.

[Translation: At present, the dilemma faced by students is not too different from what LFS experienced during the Marcos regime. It is our obligation, as students, to stand and fight for the rights of the Filipino people.]

The Samahang ng Progresibong Kabataan also expressed their concern on AFP’s unsubstantiated claims that schools like UP are breeding grounds of communist rebels may lead to militarization of educational institutions.

“The AFP’s demand to militarize UP campuses is an issue that concerns the very basics of our democratic life. Should we let them succeed in UP, the path is open for them to militarize all schools,” the organization said in a statement. “The relevance of our schools as academic institutions and centers of free conscience and speech is at stake.”

The UP Manila University Student Council vowed to fight against attempts by state institutions to curtail academic freedom and democractic rights.

“We refuse to cower to the deceptions of a government institution that masquerades as a protector of human rights but in reality, only serves as a conduit for the further curtailment of our freedoms,” the council said in a statement.

Akbayan Youth chairperson RJ Naguit appealed to UP President Danilo Concepcion to protect the community from the possible militarization activities brought by the accord’s abrogation.

“We urge President Danilo Concepcion to protect the UP community against President Duterte's latest crackdown or else UP will become a hunting ground for the likes of Debold Sinas and the AFP,” he said in a statement.

Hashtags #DefendUP, #NoToCampusMilitarization, and #UPFight trended in social media overnight as several youth netizens reacted on the abrogation of the UP-DND accord.

In a letter, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana informed Concepcion that the UP-DND accord was "terminated or abrogated" as of January 15, 2021. He said this was done so they could perform their mandate to protect the youth from being recruited by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.