The scrapping of the agreement between the Department of National Defense (DND) and the University of the Philippines that prohibits police and military presence inside UP campuses was meant to “sow fear, discourage dissent, and silence criticism,” Vice President Leni Robredo said on Tuesday.
In a statement, Robredo said that the unilateral termination of the 30-year-old UP-DND accord meant “that under this administration, anyone, anywhere, at anytime, is fair game.”
“It is now up to us to decide whether we will give in. Or whether, at long last, we will stand our ground and speak out. In this, my faith remains firm, we will find our courage and do what needs to be done.”
She argued that five presidents—Corazon Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Benigno Aquino III—since 1989 “have managed to protect both the UP community and the Republic without breaking it (agreement).”
As the DND defended its actions, saying that the termination was meant to protect UP against the recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), Robredo said this was not simply about law enforcement.
Because if it is, “all the accord asks is that military authorities give notice to university officials before any operations in UP.”
“Clearly, then, this is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism,” she added.
The agreement between the DND and UP was meant to bring back confidence in the country’s democracy. Signed in 1989 in the aftermath of Martial Law, Robredo said “the accord was an effort to ease apprehensions, not just within the UP community, but among the public at large, that the reign of violence and terror that held sway during the dictatorship had never really gone away.”
She clarified that the agreement does not exempt UP or its community from any law, but rather “to send the clear message that in a democracy, even a fledgling one, law enforcement was conducted following clear rules, within defined limits.”
“That in a democracy, there was no place for (a) relentless war waged across all borders, without oversight or accountability, against any person those in power had decided to brand ‘an enemy,’” Robredo added.
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 CPP-NPA.