Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill seeking to uphold academic freedom in the University of the Philippines (UP) and provide the institution the “democratic space” to ensure that exchanges and expression of ideas within its premises are free from intimidation from state forces.
“While it is important to protect our national security, it is likewise important to afford our academic institutions the democratic space conducive to free exchange of ideas and critical thinking, which leads to more effective participation in the national conversation,” De Lima said in filing Senate Bill No. 2035.
“It must be emphasized that nothing in this bill prevents any lawful exercise of the law enforcement powers of the President through the PNP (Philippine National Police) and other civilian law enforcement units, within the bounds of the Constitution and the guidelines of due process,” she stressed.
The bill primarily seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9500 or “The University of the Philippines Charter of 2008” which allows it to perform its mandate as the country’s premier academic institution.
The measure also seeks to enact and make permanent the UP-Department of National Defense Accord of 1989 to protect the academic freedom of the country’s premiere state university.
De Lima filed the bill in response to the unilateral abrogation of the UP-DND Agreement after military officials accused UP of harboring communists supposedly recruiting students inside campuses of the state university.
Formulated during then President Corazon Aquino’s administration in June 1989, the agreement provides that the military and police are prohibited from entering the premises of any UP campus or its regional units without prior notice to the university’s administration.
“For DND to abrogate that accord—albeit mistakenly—without considering the issues that led to its creation, is to betray that goal of promoting critical thinking and active citizenry in the guise of preventing recruitment by rebellious forces,” she said.
She assured that the bill provides necessary guidelines in which the country’s armed forces and law enforcement units may operate within the UP campuses and promote peaceful co-existence with the UP Community in protecting the campuses and maintaining peace and order.
She said it is imperative that the government allow and encourage public discourse as a matter of determining policy to let citizens know of the national issues without resorting to violence.
“This bill prohibits military operations within the campuses, except under conditions of lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion and during civil defense operations upon invitation by UP authorities,” she said.