The University of the Philippines (UP) today condemned the Duterte administration’s decision to unilaterally terminate a decades-old agreement that required state officials to notify the school first before they conduct any military or police operations within any of the institution’s campuses.
UP President Danilo Concepcion said in a statement that the cancellation of the 1989 agreement, which was signed by then-Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos and former school President Jose Abueva, is “unnecessary and unwarranted” and could lead to the “worsening” of the relationship between the school and the Duterte government.
“The agreement never stood in the way of police and security forces conducting lawful operations within our campuses. Entry was always given when necessary to law enforcers within their mandate,” Concepcion said.
He said that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not even bother to consult UP before terminating the accord.
“Instead of instilling confidence in our police and military, your decision can only sow more confusion and mistrust, given that you have not specified what it is that you exactly aim to do or put in place in lieu of the protections and courtesies afforded by the agreement,” the university president added.
Concepcion added that the agreement’s objective was to “protect the climate of academic freedom,” and assured the government that it “does not condone sedition, armed insurrection, or the use of violence for political ends.”
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Lorenzana today defended his decision to terminate the agreement, saying that the 1989 accord has become “obsolete,” and that “times and circumstances have changed” since it was signed by Ramos and Abueva.
Lorenzana, parroting the narrative of the government, also alleged that UP “has become the breeding ground of intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government.”
“The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state,” he added.
The termination of the agreement means that the police and military can enter the university freely, without informing the school’s administration beforehand.
Lorenzana told Concepcion about the termination of the agreement in a letter dated Jan. 15 which was made public last night. In the letter, the defense secretary lamented that the agreement stood in the way of the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, and alleged that communists are conducting “clandestine recruitment” inside UP campuses. He alleged that a number of UP students have been identified as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, and some of them were even killed in clashes with the military and police.
President Rodrigo Duterte once threatened to defund the university because he thought it was calling for an academic strike amidst the pandemic, a movement that was actually started by students of Ateneo de Manila University. Duterte also accused the school of coddling communists but failed to provide evidence to back up his claim.
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