Following uproar over the Department of National Defense's unilateral termination of its accord with the University of the Philippines on the entry of troops in campuses, the Commission on Higher Education is seeking to mediate by trying to define "academic freedom."
CHED Chairman Prospero De Vera III said Friday he would form a panel of "education experts" to define academic freedom as well as the nitty-gritty that comes with the term that has become a battle cry for student activism.
"Narrowly tailoring regulation to allow the fullest articulation of speech while allowing the protection of compelling state interest is a balanced standard that we all can be guided with to bring out what is common interest to all, and not on those where we differ," De Vera said in a statement.
'Destined to be problematic'
Calling the implementation of the accord "destined to be problematic," CHED Chair De Vera said the deal was "rich in intention but short on details," making it prone to misinterpretation.
"The Accord has no clear detailed operational details to implement the provisions of the agreement," said De Vera, who had served in the UP System.
The accord, signed in 1989 by UP President Jose Abueva and then-Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, bars the military and police from entering any UP campus without notifying campus officials beforehand. Exemption to the agreement are "cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency."
The unilateral termination of the accord has been met with much criticism, not only from members of the UP community, but from members of the academe as well, who rallied for the protection of academic freedom.
Defining academic freedom, De Vera said, could be a starting point for a dialogue between the defense department and UP officials.
"CHED is offering its offices to bring together not just UP and DND but all public and private HEIs so we can find common ground to protect the interest of our 3.1 million students while upholding academic freedom," De Vera said.
In terminating the accord, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said UP has become a "safe haven for enemies of the state." He said the deal was deemed terminated starting Jan. 15.
Over the years, UP has built its reputation as the bastion of student activism.
UP President Danilo Concepcion has expressed his "grave concern" over the abrogation of the agreement, and called it "unnecessary and unwarranted."