University of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion expressed “grave concern” over the unilateral termination of its long-time agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND) which keeps state forces from entering UP campuses.
In his response letter issued on Tuesday, Concepcion said the decision of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is “unnecessary and unwarranted,” adding that it could affect the relations between the agency and the state university.
“I must express our grave concern over this abrogation, as it is totally unnecessary and unwarranted, and may result in worsening, rather than improving, relations between our institutions, and detract from our common desire for peace, justice, and freedom in our society,” Concepcion said in his letter.
Concepcion added that the 31-year-old UP-DND pact was abrogated unilaterally and without prior consultation that would have addressed the concerns raised by the Defense chief in his letter.
“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.
The University President also urged Lorenzana to “reconsider and revoke” the abrogation and suggested that UP officials and the Defense chief could meet to “discuss concerns in the shared spirit of peace, justice, and the pursuit of excellence.”
In Lorenzana’s letter to Concepcion dated January 15, he explained that the accord signed between the DND and UP in 1989 only serves as a “hindrance” to government forces who cannot conduct anti-communist operations inside the campuses.
Lorenzana 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.
However, Concepcion argued that the agreement “never stood in the way of police and security forces conducting lawful operations” within UP campuses, adding that problems or misunderstandings have always been “amicably and reasonably resolved” between the two parties.
“Perhaps, this will be a good opportunity to emphasize that we sought and secured that agreement not to evade or weaken the law, but to protect the climate of academic freedom—guaranteed by the Constitution—that makes intellectual inquiry and human and social advancement possible,” the UP president said.
“We want to maintain UP as a safe haven for all beliefs and forms of democratic expression. In that, all the signatories to the agreement believed and bound themselves to uphold,” he added.
Concepcion also noted that the UP community does not condone sedition, armed insurrection, or the use of violence for political ends as they value and appreciate the contributions of the uniformed services to their safety and security.
However, he said, any form or semblance of militarization on UP campuses must be rejected, given their experience during martial law, which will have a “chilling effect deleterious to academic freedom.”
“Our police and military authorities should have no fear of academic freedom. Indeed UP has bred rebels and nonconformists—as well as it has bred presidents, senators, congressmen, and business, civic, and even military leaders. All the world’s great universities have produced the same range of thinkers and doers,” he said.
“By and large, intellectual and political dissidents in UP have always been in the minority, but it is a critical minority that has historically been vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy,” Concepcion added.
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 disappearances of student activists near UP campuses during the Martial Law period.