UP President: Reconsider end of DND pact, gov't need not fear academic freedom

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — The president of the University of the Philippines on Tuesday urged the Department of National Defense to rethink its abrupt unilateral decision to terminate their agreement barring state forces from barging into UP campuses without proper notification.

UP President Danilo Concepcion said the Duterte administration did not reach out to school officials to address any of its grievances before scrapping the three-decade long pact. He asked Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to review his decision, warning it may worsen relations between the government and the UP community.

"Instead of instilling confidence in our police and military, your decision can only sow more confusion and mistrust, given that you have not specified what it is that you exactly aim to do or put in place in lieu of the protections and courtesies afforded by the agreement," he said in a statement.

Concepcion highlighted that the accord was signed in 1989 to protect the climate of academic freedom in UP. He said police personnel and soldiers do not have to fear the freedom granted to students and faculty to think, probe, question, and propose better solutions to national issues.

"Indeed, UP has bred rebels and nonconformists — as well as it has bred presidents, senators, congressmen, and business, civic, and even military leaders... We want to maintain UP as a safe haven for all beliefs and forms of democratic expression," he said.

Concepcion said that UP will continue to reject any semblance of militarization in its campuses, which may have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

UP has found an ally in Vice President Leni Robredo, several lawmakers, and progressive youth groups that condemened the government's decision.

Lorenzana on Tuesday justified the Duterte administration's decision, saying the courtesy accorded to UP in 1989 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.

He also said UP cannot be given special treatment and be dealt with 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.

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.e previously threatened to defund UP after confusion following calls for an academic strike.