The University of the Philippines (UP) does not need the accorded with the Department of National Defense (DND) which was recently terminated, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Domingo Egon Cayosa said on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
“Academic freedom, freedom of expression and association, due process, privacy, and other fundamental rights are guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution. These basic rights cannot be taken away by the unilateral scrapping of an agreement for operational coordination,” assured Cayosa in a statement.
“Considering its institutional autonomy as a National University under R.A. 9500 (the UP Charter of 2008), primary authority and responsibility for ‘effective security, safety, and welfare of the students, faculty and employees of U.P.’ rests with the officials of the U.P. System, not with the Department of National Defense or other government agencies/units,” he also pointed out.
DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana earlier informed UP President Danilo Concepcion that starting Jan. 15 the accord which was signed in 1989 has been terminated.
Lorenzana told Concepcion that the DND is “aware” of an “ongoing clandestine recruitment” of students by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), inside UP campuses nationwide” but no action could be taken since the accord “stipulates certain limitations” where police and military units are prevented from entering the campus without prior communication from the UP administration.
On the other hand, Cayosa said there has been no need for the DND to terminate the accord with UP.
“The U.P.-DND accord does not and should not not hinder legitimate law enforcement and security operations as the agreement specifically provides that ‘nothing herein shall be construed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land’,” the IBP chief cited.
“Diverse groups, including those who oppose government, conduct recruitment in U.P. as they do in many other schools. Nevertheless, what truly impels and fuels dissent is not U.P. or its tradition of critical thinking and activism but the injustice, corruption, incompetence, abuse and oppression, poverty or hopelessness that citizens may experience or discern,” Cayosa added.
Though he admitted that the DND can legally terminate the open-ended agreement with UP, Cayosa said “it would have been more ideal and in keeping with statesmanship, mutual respect and courtesy that consultation and dialogue between the two parties, both of which are government institutions, were held to possibly resolve issues and seek solutions before any unilateral abrogation.”
“While there is reason to decry and oppose the unilateral termination of the U.P.-DND agreement, it may be wise for U.P. and its stakeholders to focus more on what we can do and less on what we cannot control,” Cayosa advised.