The controversial agreement between the state university and the Defense department was “destined to be problematic” as vague provisions in the 31-year-old pact, which bars police and military presence in its campuses, were prone to different interpretations, the chief of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) said on Friday.
“[I] assert that the implementation of the DND-UP Accord was destined to be problematic,” CHEd Chairman Prospero de Vera 3rd said in a statement.
“The accord has no clear detailed operational details to implement the provisions of the agreement.”
De Vera, an alumnus and former vice president for public affairs of the University of the Philippines, noted that representatives of the Department of National Defense and UP were not meeting regularly “to determine compliance with the agreement, review alleged violations, determine appropriate penalties, and recommend revisions in the Accord given the changing times.”
“The DND-UP Accord is therefore rich in intention but short on details, and is therefore prone to differing interpretations,” he stressed.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion dated January 15, declared that the 1989 agreement is abrogated, claiming that it was being used as a “shield” to bar state forces to act on what he claims “an ongoing clandestine recruitment” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in its campuses.
The move was met with torrent of condemnation from the university alumni as well as civil liberties groups.
To address the issues raised by both sides, de Vera called on both parties to “exercise sobriety” and discuss their points of disagreement.
De Vera is also set to convene a panel of educators “in the next few days” to define the meaning of academic freedom and the role of state forces in upholding academic freedom.
“This definition and framework can hopefully be the starting point of a dialogue between the DND and UP in the coming days,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Jose “Lito” Atienza wants Congress to immediately look into the termination of the 1989 agreement.
“Congress should investigate this matter as soon as possible. Secretary Lorenzana, you should explain yourself. Why are you doing this? Are you branding all UP campuses as communist hotbeds and recruitment centers?” he said as he expressed his support to a proposed House Resolution that seeks to probe the termination of the agreement.
Atienza pointed out that an investigation must be conducted to also give Lorenzana a chance to explain his basis for the abrogation of the agreement.
“If anyone is violating the law, then the military can act without putting the entire student body in a bad light or under threat. The military, after all, has enough intelligence funds to move in and out of campuses without disturbing the good relations brought about by the agreement,” he said.
Atienza pointed out the historical significance of the pact that had been signed after a “deep divide” between uniformed personnel and students after the martial rule.
“Before the agreement was signed in 1989, there used to be a deep divide between uniformed men and the student bodies. This was slowly dissolved by the impact and effect of this agreement where mutual trust has been formed. But with this singular act of the military, the line has been recreated,” he said.
For his part, Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte filed House Bill 8443 or the “Academic Freedom Act of 202,” which seeks to institutionalize state universities and colleges as freedom spaces.
With reports from DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ