AFP backs termination of UP-DND accord

Published January 20, 2021, 11:28 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday night that it “strongly supports” the decision of the Department of National Defense (DND) to unilaterally terminate the 1989 University of the Philippines – DND accord.

Gen. Gilbert Gapay (PHILIPPINE ARMY / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) strongly supports the move of the Department of National Defense (DND) in terminating the DND-UP accord,” said General Gilbert Gapay, AFP Chief of Staff, in a statement.

Gapay said the AFP finds the agreement “unfair” to the Filipino people and “runs contrary to public interest.”

“[T]he termination rectifies what we believe was in fact [an] infringement of our Constitution. It’s high time that we put an end to a deal which has been taken advantage of by the CPP – NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army) in perpetuating their deceptive recruitment,” Gapay said.

The military chief said the termination of the agreement should be focused on the fact that UP has become “one of the rich sources of NPA recruits.” As expected, this was denied by UP President Danilo Concepcion.

According to Gapay, the military has identified at least 18 UP students who were recruited by the NPA and got killed in skirmishes with government troops.

“We cannot remain bound by an agreement that dictates that we have to seek permission before we can enter UP campuses. We should not be tied to a covenant that requires prior notice before we can effect arrests or searches even if the courts have issued the warrants,” Gapay said.

“We are confident however that the voiding of the agreement will bring about an opportunity. As a way forward, we will pursue a more collaborative relationship between UP —and other universities for that matter— to usher the rebirth of schools and state universities that are bastions of genuine patriotism and not of misguided activism,” he added.

The military chief hit the UP for having “privileges” which, he said, violate the “Equal Protection Clause” under the Philippine Constitution.

Equal protection is defined by the Supreme Court as a guarantee that laws will treat alike persons who are similarly situated, and treat differently those who are differently situated.

The DND confirmed last Monday that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has terminated the 1989 UP-DND accord as a part of their efforts to counter communist insurgency.

The accord prevented state forces from entering the university’s premises without prior coordination to its chancellor or president. It was signed in June, 1989 after the arrest of a UP campus journalist, who was accused of killing an American soldier, inside the university’s premises.

“There is no substantial distinction between UP and other schools, state colleges, and universities. To give to UP such entitlement places it an unfairly advantaged status over the academic institutions and defies that Constitutional guarantee of equality of rights and protection under our laws,” Gapay said.

Academic freedom

Several opposition lawmakers, members of the academe, and other stakeholders have criticized the termination of the accord, saying it is an affront to academic freedom.

But Gapay said that academic freedom “is not lost by the abrogation of the agreement.” 

“The AFP will not interfere in UP’s liberty to choose who may teach, what can be taught, the manner with which it will be taught or who may study in UP. That academic freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, it does not require enabling laws or any other agreements,” he assured.

 
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