Defense chief terminates 1989 pact with UP

Published January 18, 2021, 10:14 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has terminated a 31-year-old accord signed between the Department of National Defense (DND) and the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1989 which keeps state forces from entering the university premises, it was confirmed Monday night.

In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion dated January 15, 2021, Lorenzana said that the DND-UP Accord “is hereby terminated or abrogated effective this date.”

He explained that the accord “stipulates certain limitations” where police and military units are prevented from entering the campus without prior communication from the UP administration.

He stressed that the DND is “aware” of an “ongoing clandestine recruitment” of students by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), inside UP campuses nationwide.

Lorenzana said the accord only serves as a “hindrance” to government forces who cannot conduct anti-communist operations inside the campuses. 

Further, he stated that there have been recent encounters between government forces and the CPP-NPA where among those killed, captured, or surrendered were UP students or former students, thus proving their point that communist groups have already penetrated its campuses.

“These UP students were recruited by the CPP-NPA, an organization declared by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) as a terrorist organization,” Lorenzana said.

He said the accord is only being used by recruiters and supporters of the CPP-NPA as a “shield or propaganda so that government law enforcers are barred from conducting operations against the CPP-NPA” inside their school premises.

“By reason of national security and safety of UP students, this Department intends to remedy this situation by terminating or abrogating the existing ‘Agreement’ in order for us to perform our legal mandate of protecting our youth against CPP-NPA recruitment,” Lorenzana stressed.

Lorenzana clarified that the DND will not station military or police units inside UP campuses now that the accord has been terminated.

He said law enforcement agencies, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) “are willing to reach out to the youth” to make them realize that they are “protectors worthy of trust, not fear.”

However, some sectors were questioning whether the DND can unilaterally terminate the agreement.

The UP Office of the Student Regent said that the accord was “the outcome of countless sacrifices of UP students to fight for our democratic rights, to defend our freedom.”

The UP-DND Accord, also known as the Soto-Enrile Accord, was signed on June 30, 1989 by student leader Sonia Soto and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile due to the disapperances of student activists near UP campuses during the Martial Law period. 

Accordingly, it seeks to protect the autonomy of the university from any military intervention.

“We highly condemn this move as an attempt to encroach on our academic freedoms and remove safe spaces from our campuses,” the UP Office of the Student Regent said in a tweet. 

Lorenzana is a member of the Anti-Terrorism Council, a government body created through the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Law. 

The Council is mandated by the law to eliminate terror threats, including the CPP-NPA, which it recently designated as “terrorist groups.”