UP Manila, AFP Ink 5-Year Partnership to Increase Cooperation; SCs Worry It May Serve as ‘Launchpad’ for Campus Militarization
By Rochel M. Floron IV
Last May 10, the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) inked a 5-year Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to increase cooperation and training between the two institutions.
Specifically, the MOA serves to promote dental education of civilian and military dentists of the AFP through training provided by the UP College of Dentistry (UPCD).
However, student councils and organizations worry about the security issues that this agreement would entail in light of the recent attacks on the students and the community by state forces. They also fear that this agreement may be opening the gates for more incursions by the armed forces in the university.
What is the agreement?
The recently signed MOA, which is said to be an “improved” version of an agreement signed 14 years ago, establishes the connection between the university and the armed forces in the field of dentistry.
Through the UP College of Dentistry, the civilian and military dentists of the AFP are expected to improve their skills in delivering dental services in their institution extending up to their families.
The agreement also extends collaboration in different fields of research between UPM and the AFP as the latter would welcome graduating dental students from the UPCD to enter the armed forces as part of its regular force or as reservists in their dental department.
In a press release, Chancellor Padilla is delighted with the increasing relationship of the university to the armed forces which is said to be “already-strong, albeit unofficial.” The chancellor added that “a good relationship is brewing” between the university and the armed forces.
“[The UPM] looks to collaborate, to share its knowledge so that it would not remain within the walls of the university, but go beyond,” Padilla said.
University under Constant Attack
Various student formations and organizations slam the agreement as they deem it as a threat to the democratic spaces in the university citing recent attacks against progressive students and groups in UPM.
The Manila Collegian has been receiving persistent attacks against its staff members with the recent incident of harassment in two separate coverages, and an editor being surveilled by social media users without identification.
Several reported incidents of unauthorized entries by the state forces in the university have also raised security issues.
Furthermore, on January 30, 2023, Dr. Natividad Castro, a community doctor from the UP College of Medicine, was arbitrarily tagged as a “terrorist” by the Anti-Terror Council which the UP Manila community vehemently condemns.
The UPM University Student Council (UPM USC) has also cited that the administration went on to sign a MOA without informing any student institutions, and that the council is now requesting for a full disclosure of the MOA which the UPCD administration evades.
“Ma-a-assure ba talaga nila na dental officer lang ng AFP ang pupunta ng UPM kung hindi natin alam ang content ng agreement, launchpad ito na posibleng mag open ng campus militarization,” said by UPM USC Chairperson Mark Angelo del Rosario in a recent meeting with local college councils.