President Duterte has backed the Department of National Defense’s decision to terminate an accord with the University of the Philippines (UP) that will now allow the free entry of government forces in its campuses, Malacanang announced Tuesday.
“(Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana is an alter ego of the President. Of course, the President supports the decision of Secretary Lorenzana,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said during a televised press briefing.
Lorenzana recently wrote a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion announcing the DND’s decision to terminate the accord with UP amid concerns the state university has supposedly become “a safe haven for enemies of the state. The agreement, forged in 1989, required state forces to notify school officials before conducting operations within the UP campuses as a courtesy.
Roque, a UP alumnus and former professor, defended the DND decision to scrap the deal on limited police and military presence in its premises, saying academic freedom would not be affected.
Roque, who also studied abroad, pointed out that campuses in the United States and United Kingdom have police presence but academic freedom has never been violated.
“Alam ninyo po lalung-lalo na sa Inglatera, wala pong distinction between a campus and the city – na ang campus is very much (a part) of the city. At sa buong Europa po, ibig sabihin ang pulis eh naruroon din po sa lahat ng mga campuses at wala naman pong paglabag sa academic freedom (You know in England, there is no distinction between a campus and the city. The campus is very much of the city. Across Europe, there is police presence in all campuses but there was never a violation of academic freedom),” he said.
“Nasa mga taga-UP rin po iyan… hindi po nila papayagan na mabale-wala at malabag ang kanilang karapatan sa academic freedom (That’s also up to the UP community. They won’t allow the academic freedom to be violated),” he added.
Asked if the government is open to a dialogue with UP to address its concerns, Roque left to Lorenzana to discuss the matter with the university officials.
“UP President Concepcion said he is moving for consideration so President Concepcion and Secretary Lorenzana should talk,” he said.
In response to the DND’s letter, Concepcion has asked Lorenzana to “reconsider and revoke” the unilateral termination of the deal, saying it was “unnecessary and unwarranted.”
“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 wrote.
The defense chief earlier said the agreement has become obsolete and has hindered authorities from providing effective security and safety for the UP students, faculty and staff. He further claimed that that UP has become “the breeding ground of intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government.”
Concepcion however said the agreement did not stand in the way of government’s lawful operations within the campuses. “Entry was always given when necessary to law enforcers within their mandate,” he said.