10 questions about the 1981 Soto-Enrile Accord and 1989 UP-DND Agreement

Published January 22, 2021, 11:58 PM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

In a nutshell, the 1981 Soto-Enrile Accord is a document where then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile promised UP student activist Sonya Sotto that the military and police would not enter the University of the Philippines without advance notice to senior UP officials. The 1989 UP-DND Agreement is basically a reiteration of the 1981 accord.

The present controversy stems from government’s decision to cancel the agreement, with the Palace argueing  that the conditions set in the documents unnecessarily encumber the government. The UP community disagreed and said the agreement is indispensable in ensuring academic freedom.

With these said, let me ask a few questions.

FIRST, where’s the actual signed document? When Senator Juan Ponce Enrile denied the existence of the 1981 Accord, Sonya Soto said it can be found in a 1980s issue of the UP Gazette. But that isn’t the original document. So where is the original document, or even a scan of the document that shows Enrile’s signature? So far, none has been shown.

SECOND, if the Soto-Enrile Accord indeed exists, what is its legal weight? Surely, it isn’t a treaty because UP is not a state actor. It doesn’t have the force and effect of a presidential decree or executive order, either, as Enrile is not Ferdinand Marcos.

That is, if the Soto-Enrile Accord is valid, then it must have, at best, the force and effect of a department Order. But department orders can be cancelled anytime, using another department order, right?

THIRD, does the 1981 Accord (or the 1989 Agreement) qualify as an executive agreement a la EDCA? If so, then the Executive Department can unilaterally abrogate, right?

FOURTH, if not, i.e., assuming DND can’t unilaterally abrogate, what means does UP have to enforce it? Does UP have its own military to ensure observance of the accord despite a unilateral abrogation? A law, without a means to enforce it, is practically meaningless.

FIFTH, if UP insists that the agreement is essential to academic freedom, then why doesn’t it allow anti-communism seminars conducted by DND? From my best recollection, there was that time when grieving parents of dead NPA recruits weren’t allowed to speak in UP.

SIXTH, only UP and PUP have such agreements with the DND. Does that mean all other SUCs have no academic freedom? Why didn’t UP activists rally so other SUCs can enjoy the same supposedly indispensable privilege?

Why aren’t other SUCs demanding such agreements from the DND? Why aren’t private universities like Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle demanding the same? Why does UP (and PUP) enjoy such privilege while the rest of SUCs and private universities and colleges don’t?

SEVENTH, can a fugitive rebel hide in UP and use the accord to avoid arrest? What is the process of “extradition,” if ever? If such an event arises, why would the state even need to beg UP to turn over a fugitive a la Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, when UP is not even a party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations?

EIGHTH, why would the state choose to continue encumber itself with the accord? What’s the incentive for the government to maintain the agreement? Why does the government, per the agreement, risk the failure of law enforcement operations by requiring itself to notify UP authorities who may or may not be sympathetic to the person they’re looking for?

NINTH, when was the latest arbitrary arrest of a UP employee or student? Given the answer to this question, is the agreement still relevant to the times, or has it become a mere relic of the past?

TENTH, should UP hold a university-wide plebiscite to decide on whether to accede to the abrogation or to resist it? The accord started as a supposed agreement between a student and Enrile, so why doesn’t UP allow its student body to decide?

Many from the UP community have shown elitist tendencies as they relentlessly attacked Duterte supporters without even inviting them to talk in any of the universities’ seminars that supposedly teem with academic freedom. Too bad Duterte supporters constitute the vast majority of the population right now. I guess that’s why UP’s supporters largely come from the yellows and the reds.

UP wants to keep the agreement but for them to do that, they must be able to gather popular support. Collective support from yellows and reds is woefully not enough. Thus, I hope somebody from the community can answer these questions persuasively. Because at the rate things are going, the UP-DND agreement will soon be no more.

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