Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman on Wednesday formally asked the House of Representatives to conduct a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation on the decision of the Department of National Defense (DND) to unilaterally abrogate the 1989 University of the Philippines (UP)-DND agreement.
Lagman said he expects more House members to cross party lines in support of the call for investigation into the decision made the other day by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lagman filed House Resolution 1490 calling on the House Committee on Human Rights to lead the inquiry over the cancellation of the agreement that bars the military and security forces to operate inside University of the Philippines campuses without prior notification and coordination with concerned officials of UP
Reps. Christopher Belmonte (LP, Quezon City), Lorenz Defensor (NUP, Iloilo), and Carlos Zarate co-authored HR 1490.
Aside from the human rights committee, the House Committee on Higher Education may be tapped to join the inquiry.
In seeking a congressional probe, Lagman underscored that “the unilateral termination of the subject agreement by the DND without prior consultation with and conformity of UP officials is illegal and void ab initio because the accord was entered into bilaterally and mutually, and could not be extinguished by one party alone.”
A number of House members chided Lorenzana’s decision.
Reps. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan Partylist) and Ruffy Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City) called on Lorenzana to reconsider his decision. They also urged the DND and UP to hold a dialogue to discuss the issue.
In a statement, Minority Leader and Abang Lingkod Rep. Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano said the abrogation of the agreement is not in conformity with the constitutional guarantee of due process.
“We appreciate Sec. Lorenzana’s efforts to safeguard national security but his decision should have been coursed through the Joint Monitoring Group as provided for in the said agreement,” said Paduano.
He added that “national security is paramount, but the abrogation of the bilateral agreement should have been done in adherence to the Constitutional requirement of due process.”
“I believe that national security is supreme over academic freedom, but there seems to be a lapse in procedure,” said Paduano.
According to Lagman the one-sided termination “opens the floodgates for military and police incursions into UP campuses nationwide under the guise of protecting national security and maintaining peace and order.”
“The abrupt termination red-tags the entire nationwide UP constituencies of UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños, UP Visayas, the regional units in San Fernando, Tacloban, Ming-ao (Iloillo), Cebu, as well as UP Mindanao in Davao City and other extension units established after the execution of the accord,” he said.
“While Lorenzana claims that UP campuses are hotbeds for recruitment of students for membership to the CPP-NPA, the fact is there are no students now on UP campuses to be purportedly recruited because there are no face-to-face classes and only online classes are ongoing,” the independent lawmaker said.