Several progressive groups denounced the move by the Department of National Defense (DND) that reportedly terminated a 30-year agreement that prohibits any military and police presence inside the campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP).
Akbayan Youth’s UP Diliman chapter called on the UP administration to stand its ground and fight against this move by the government.
“We demand the UP Administration to fight for the rights of their constituents and to disallow the military to repress mobilizations in campus,” it said.
The group maintained that “UP is a bastion of activism, a safe space for students, faculty, staff, and residents (to) be critical while upholding honor and excellence in everything that they do.”
The 1989 DND-UP accord was signed by former UP President Jose Abueva and then-Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos. It serves as a protection for students and faculty members who participate in activist movements.
On Monday, a copy of the letter sent by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to UP President Danilo Concepcion was leaked on social media.
In the letter, Lorenzana said that the termination of the accord was meant to protect UP and its community from the recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also condemned Lorenzana’s “brazen act of unilaterally abrogating this agreement,” and questioned the validity of terminating the agreement without so much as a consultation with stakeholders.
“This is an outright bastardization of academic freedom, and of our freedoms of speech and thought. Lorenzana’s act signals greater repression, harassment, and harm among activists, especially youth and students which they had maliciously tagged as communists, and the militarization of campuses,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said.
For years, activists gather on the grounds of UP campuses to speak against the government without fear that the police or military will harm or arrest them.
Anakbayan secretary general Vinz Simon called the move “desperate.” The administration, he added, is “eager to stomp out all vestiges of militant opposition against his fascist regime — no matter how valid or legal.”
“The UP-DND accord was borne out of persistent human rights abuses in the conduct of police and military operations inside the campus. We are not speaking of freedom in abstract terms but in concrete, historical terms. Kaya nga nagkaroon ng kasunduan kasi may umabuso (The reason there was an agreement was because there was abuse),” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
The militant groups used the hashtags #DefendUP, #DefendAcademicFreedom, #StopTheAttacks, #JunkTerrorLaw, and #OustDuterteNow in their statements.
On Monday night, the hashtag #DefendUP also trended on the microblogging site Twitter.