CHR says DND-UP accord abrogation heightens distrust towards gov’t

Published January 20, 2021, 2:37 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The unilateral termination by the Department of National Defense (DND)
of its accord with the University of the Philippines (UP) casts further doubts on the sincerity of the government to uphold human rights.  It also “aggravates the climate of distrust towards the government,” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has warned.

Since 1989, the accord has protected the University’s students, faculty, and employees from arbitrary state and police action, especially those seen to be infringing upon academic freedom.

The termination of the accord at a time when human rights violations are perceived to be on the rise has raised the alarm of the CHR.

The CHR said in a statement that the UP-DND accord does not place UP beyond the reach of the rule of law. “The University continues to exist as a subject of valid restrictions inasmuch as it is guaranteed freedoms. No one is and should ever be above the law,” it stressed.

The Commission explained that the exercise of academic freedom in UP, such as the conduct of ideological discourses or non-violent protest activities against the government, would not constitute a threat to government security that would justify intervention by the armed forces.

“There is no justification for government to stifle the legitimate exercise of rights guaranteed under the Constitution, including that of academic freedom within universities. And there is no need for any accord on this,” the CHR said.

Instead of terminating the agreement unilaterally, the CHR said that the DND should have expressed its concerns with UP and proposed appropriate measures.

“More than anything, the agreement between UP and the DND underscored the recognition by the two institutions that the expression of intellectual dissent is part of academic freedom which ought be respected by government,” the CHR said.