CANCELLED AGREEMENTS WITH FILIPINO COLLEGES
On the night of January 18, 2021, the public became aware of the abrogation of the 1989 University and the Department of National Defense (DND) agreement that kept military and police from entering University of the Philippines (UP) campuses without formal notice. A letter on January 15 from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told UP President Danilo Concepcion of his decision to get rid of the 1989 UP-DND agreement. The termination of the agreement will allow UP campuses to be invaded by the military and police.
On June 30, 1989, an agreement between UP and DND formed between UP President Jose Abueva and then-defense chief Fidel Ramos. On June 16, a former journalist from the Philippines Collegian, Donato Continente, was kidnapped at Vinzons Hall. The journalist was wounded and demanded to admit to the killing of Colonel James Rowe, an American soldier killed in April that year. This event is the reason for signing the 1989 UP-DND Accord 14 days later. The main purpose of the UP-DND Accord is to prevent military and police from abducting UP constituents like Donato Continente.
Some Things Inside the 1989 UP-DND Agreement
Not including cases of hot pursuit and relating occasions of emergency, military and police canotn enter the premises of any of the campuses and its regional units.
The military and police cannot interrupt peaceful protests by UP constituents on UP premises.
UP administration is required to inform any search or arrest warrant on any student, faculty, employee, or invited participant of the university in all official UP activity.
Any student, faculty, or employee is not subjected to the custodial investigation without earlier notice to the administration of UP.
Nothing in the agreement can be interpreted as a prohibition against enforcement of laws of the land.
Earlier notifications must be given to UP administration before the military or police can carry out any operations within UP campuses.
When UP administration requests security help from troops, only uniformed personnel of the military and police can inside campus premises.
An arrest or detention of a student, faculty, or employee in the Philippines shall be notified to the UP administrations.
Joint monitoring groups made up of UP Faculty Regent, UP Student Regent, UP administration officials, and officials from the military and police have to meet twice a year to discuss compliance with the agreement.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion that the UP agreement was a burden to operations against communist rebels, largely with the recruitment of New People’s Army (NPA) forces inside UP premises. The DND is aware of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army’s (NPA) recruitments inside UP campuses. Lorenzana said the DND will not put military or police outposts inside UP campuses or suppress activist groups, academic freedom, and freedom of expression. Lorenzana said that this was for the protection of students and the UP community from extremism and armed struggles.
In 1982, an agreement known as the Sotto-Enrile Accord was signed by student leader Sonia Soto and then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. This agreement forbids members of police or military from entering UP campuses, not including cases of hot pursuit and related events of emergency. The agreement was signed to shield students from police and military presence in school with the purpose of suppressing dissent and protests. The DND also plans to repeal the 1982 agreement once they get their hands on copies.
The Duterte Youth Partylist wants to cancel similar agreements, with one being Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). The agreement bans the unannounced entrance of uniformed security personnel within the school property. The Duterte Youth Partylist believes that PUP’s agreement created inequality between other state universities and colleges in the country, much like the 1989 deal with UP did. They question why some schools are given special treatment, while other schools are functioning well. UP and PUP are both schools that were the center of activism during the age of Martial Law. Some members of the UP community feel stressed and alarmed by the cancellations. For example, teachers in the Filipino language, literature, and history will feel pressure with the state’s power to threaten opposing opinions and are able to get access to the teachers immediately. PUP Catalyst, UP’s official student publication, said that Duterte Youth Partylists’ remarks on the subject dealing with the abrogations were ridiculous. The students reason that the group are representatives of youth but still antagonize them rather than fixing the problem. PUP students planned to hold a protest for the Duterte Youth Partylists’ actions at their school, as the students feel that the abrogation is a clear offense to their academic freedoms.
UP regrets the DND’s choice to abrogate the accord without previous consultation that would never address concerns raised, especially from UP President Danilo Concepcion’s letter. The DND was not able to show the majority of public interest to interfere with UP’s academic freedom, nor show any clear current danger which can restrict students’ or teacher’s civil liberties. UP President Danilo Concepcion urged Lorenzo to rethink his decision, as the abrogation may have a negative effect on academic freedoms. The Vice President of UP, several lawmakers, and progressive groups have condemned Lorenzo’s decision to abrogate the agreement. UP campuses have been a safe place for student activism since the 1980s, as it has a long history dealing with disappearances, killings, and police and military violence inside campuses. Some believe that the agreement is just a part of the government’s goal to silence people with opposing views.