The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Tuesday that the University of the Philippines should focus on its job of developing its students to become productive members of the society following the unilateral abrogation of an agreement which requires permission of the police and the military from the UP authorities before entering its campuses.
The Duterte administration has repeatedly accused UP as a breeding ground of communist rebels amid the intensified crackdown on the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and its alleged legal front organizations.
The crackdown led to some activists ending up being hauled off to jail, or dead like in the case of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan who was killed with her husband in Negros Oriental months after being Red-tagged.
Meantime, the Duterte administration has been maintaining a good foreign relations policy with China, a communist country.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the abrogation of the 1989 Soto-Enrile accord, which prohibits police and military presence in any UP campus without authorization from the UP administration, is part of the mandate of the Department of National Defense ‘to protect the State and its people from its enemy.’
“The abrogation of the DND-UP accord does not make the state university less of itself. It still has its academic freedom kept intact. It must do its job for the proper development of the youth so that they become productive members of our society,” said Usana.
Usana explained the security sector that includes the PNP will also do its job of protecting the interest of the people that includes members of the UP community.
“This is is what the Constitution mandates us to do. No crackdown. No arrests without warrant. No militarization. The police will just normally do their daily work in communities. If we are called, we will be there as well to protect the rights of students from threats posed by lawless elements.,” said Usana.
The agreement between then UP president Jose Abueva and former Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos signed in 1989 was an offshoot of the agreement between student leader Sonia Soto and then Defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile during the Martial Law years. The intention was to protect UP autonomy from military intervention.
Following the establishment of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 1989, another agreement was signed in 1992 to cover the police forces.
Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sent a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion informing the latter of the abrogation of the agreement.
“Recent events undeniably showed that a number of UP students have been identified as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, some of them were killed during police and military operations while others were captured and surrendered to the authorities,” Lorenzana’s letter to Concepcion read.
“This Department is aware that there is indeed ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership in the CPP-NPA and that the Agreement is being used by the CPP-NPA’s recruiters and supporters as a shield or propaganda so that government law enforcers are barred from conducting operations against the CPP-NPA ,” it added.
In response, Concepcion expressed grave concern on the abrogation and its intention, saying it is unnecessary and unwarranted that may result in worsening between UP community and the police and the military.
“We regret that the agreement was abrogated unilaterally, without the prior consultation that would have addressed the concerns you raised in your 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,” said Concepcion in a letter sent to Lorenzana.
“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. 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,” he added.
Public Order Interest Not Served
In a statement, PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas backed the decision of the DND, saying the agreement between the DND and UP that limits police and military presence in all its campuses nationwide did not serve the best interest of public order and security in all 30 years that the accord was in effect.
“The PNP seeks to build stronger collaboration among stakeholders to protect campuses against criminal activities, drug syndicates, and shadowy organizations that promote and espouse Local Communist Armed Conflict against government thru force and violence,” said Sinas.
“The PNP wishes to state that the termination of the agreement does not diminish our mandate to uphold the law at all times. Any abuse or criminal behavior committed by men in uniform shall be dealt with accordingly,” he added.