NEWS | UP officials seek to strengthen UP-DND Accord, UP-DILG Accord

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With the unilateral termination of the University of the Philippines — Department of National Defense (UP-DND) Accord by the latter party, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated that they are open to reconsidering the abrogation. Meanwhile, UP officials stood firm that they do not acknowledge the DND’s decision and reiterated their desire to further strengthen the said Accord. As the University and its constituents face new forms of intimidation, such as red tagging through social media, UP officials ensured the community that they are making efforts to address these security issues.

Accords are democratic responses

Currently, the UP System is engaged with two accords, namely the 1989 UP-DND agreement and the 1992 UP-Department of Interior and Local Government (UP-DILG) Accord, which both prohibits the entry of state forces within the UP campuses. The former, which is also known as the Soto-Enrile accord, prohibits the unauthorized entry of military personnel, while the latter prohibits the unauthorized entry of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Atty. Theodore O. Te, a tenured faculty member of the UP College of Law, explained that while the UP-DND Accord was “revoked,” the UP-DILG Accord is still in place.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Prospero de Vera arranged a dialogue between the DND and UP last February 4 to find common ground in resolving concerns regarding campus security and academic freedom. In the town hall meeting, organized by the UP Diliman (UPD) Community Security Committee and the Office of the Chancellor last Feb. 15, UPD Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo revealed that both parties have not yet reached an agreement and that the University’s legal council are currently preparing legal arguments to back the Accord.

In an earlier statement, Lorenzana said that both parties agreed to form a panel that would hold future talks on the matter. He also added that discussions on how to improve the relationship between the UP and DND will be considered.

The three-decade-long accord intends to protect students, faculty, and staff from police and military tactics which suppresses dissent and campus protests. Nemenzo recalled that these accords are both part of trust-building between the state and its people and a democratic response. However, last month, Lorenzana described the accord as obsolete as it hinders the provision of security, safety, and welfare of the students from Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) recruitment.

Amidst the UP-DND termination, the DILG also raised “constitutional issues” within the 1992 UP-DILG accord. Last Feb. 5, in a dialogue between the UP and DILG, no commitments were stated by the former party.

In light of the recent happenings, UP officials reiterated the need to reinstate and strengthen the UP-DND Accord as they prepare for the succeeding dialogues. Details for the second meeting between the UP, DND, and DILG are yet to be discussed.

Defend Academic Freedom

A month after the unilateral abrogation was made public, the whole UP community stood united in condemning the said decision, with all eight constituent universities’ (CUs) chancellors releasing statements to express their dismay. Chancellor Nemenzo insisted that all chancellors acknowledge the consequences of the termination of the accord, particularly the intensified red-tagging in regional campuses.

Members of the UP community and supporters also protested and urged the DND to revoke the termination. The #DefendUP Network was launched to unite the efforts of the UP community to uphold and defend academic freedom.

“If the DND says, as it does, that it would neither post military nor police inside UP’s campuses nor suppress academic freedom and freedom of expression, why abrogate the accord,” Nemenzo argued.

The UP administration emphasized that the UP must remain a safe space for criticism, free thought, expression, and dissent. Additionally, they stated that academic freedom will only be possible if there are no fear and threats against it.

“Ang dagok sa UP ay dagok sa lahat, ” UPD Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Loujaye Sonido noted, as she explained that academic freedom is not only for UP but for all educational institutions.

Addressing security issues

As red-tagging of UP faculty, students, and organizations by the Duterte Administration continues, the University publicized their plan of action to address these concerns. First, Nemenzo specified his plans to strengthen the UP Police as questions on their capability of providing safety to the community arise.

In fact, UPD Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Aleli Bawagan added that ever since January 22, they already placed security measures and enhanced the presence of security personnel at the College of Fine Arts, which was previously red tagged by state forces.

Nemenzo added that they plan to proceed with the series of sectoral consultations to better recognize what the community truly needs.

Meanwhile, Atty. Te emphasized the importance for the University’s constituents to be aware of their rights, be observant in the implementation of laws, and be patient in reporting and documenting all suspicious encounters with state forces. He also warned the UP community that, while they can expect heightened presence of armed personnel in campus, they should always act rationally, by upholding their rights and having proper documentation of the incidents.

He then clarified that even though the UP-DND Accord was revoked, the community should not fear and allow warrantless arrests to be done by the military. In terms of powers, he said, the AFP is only permitted to act as “support” and not delve into law enforcement as only the PNP has the right to carry out either search or arrest warrants issued by the court.

When asked about what support can the University give to red-tagged individuals and organizations, officials stated that they will provide quick action response and legal support. They also reiterated that the community’s best defence during this time is public information to make people aware of the dangers of red-tagging.

“Kailangan labanan ang bagong klase ng red-tagging. Ang nanganganib po ngayon ay hindi lang academic freedom ng UP kung hindi academic freedom ng lahat ng academic institutions,” Nemenzo asserted.

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