Opposition senators on Tuesday denounced the unilateral termination of a long-term agreement between the state and the University of the Philippines, saying this unnecessarily increases the tension between the UP Community and law enforcement authorities.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he is personally saddened by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s pronouncement that the UP has become a “safe haven for the enemies of the state.”
“I am saddened by this development. As a UP graduate, I know how the whole UP community values the freedom inside the campus,” Drilon said in a statement.
“We are not saying that UP should be beyond the law. If there are issues of violations of the law, a search warrant is a remedy available to the authorities not only in other places but also in UP,” the senator added.
“This unnecessarily increases the tension between the UP community and the authorities,” the lawmaker added.
He urged the Defense chief to review the termination of the agreement, which he believes would only heighten the tension.
“I know Sec. Delfin Lorenzana to be a very reasonable person. I would ask him to review the termination of the agreement, because it does not solve any problem. It just heightens the tension; it does not solve any problem,” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said if the Duterte administration is bent on looking for communist members, they should crack down on communists who are openly invading the West Philippine Sea.
“Needlessly propping up the ‘communist bogeyman’ has always been an obscene vanity project and an excuse for their red tagging and disregard for basic human rights,” Hontiveros said.
“The University of the Philippines is a bastion of student activism and its grounds must continue to be a safe space for dissent and peaceful assembly,” added the senator.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima also criticized the abrogation of the UP-DND accord, saying it sends a message to the UP Community that the Duterte administration is now taking its brand of fascism inside the campuses whenever they please.
“It is a warning to students, professors and staff not to speak ill of the dictator in Malacanang, lest they be branded enemies of the State,” De Lima said in a statement.
De Lima stressed UP is able to position itself as the country’s finest academic institution primarily because of the academic freedom accorded it, “free from political harassment by, and interference from, government forces.”
“UP is our finest academic institution. It is the national university. Year after year, they proudly represent us in the world’s top university rankings. Not only is UP a consistent participant in national conversations, they take part also in addressing our country’s problems,” she pointed out.
“UP experts are a constant fixture in policy discussions from legislative deliberations to national disaster coordination. Most recently, we have seen how they are aiding our policymakers in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,”
“Many of our leaders received UP education,” de Lima further said.
Lorenzana earlier defended his agency’s move saying that the 1989 agreement requiring state forces to notify UP officials prior to operating on the campus is a “gesture of courtesy” accorded to the university but is now “obsolete.”
“The agreement has become obsolete. The times and circumstances have changed since the agreement was signed in 1989, three years after the martial law ended,” the Cabinet official said.