CHED Opposes Crafting Law in Place of UP-Defense Accord

Clarify instead what "academic freedom" means.
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The Commission on Higher Education said Monday it was against drafting a law that would replace an agreement between on the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense on the conduct of security forces on campus.

Both parties to the accord, which the DND unilaterally junked last Jan. 15, should instead dialogue on what "academic freedom" means, since protecting it was the goal of the agreement, said CHED Chairman Prospero De Vera III.

"The definition [of academic freedom] may not be what is a product of concensus... If you legislate it, the devil is always in the details," De Vera said, saying the accord did not have clear operational guidelines. 

"The exercise of academic freedom, as far as I am concerned, is non-negotiable inside the setting of a university. But how do you exercise it? What are the rules that should be used? That has to be fleshed out for all universities both public and private," he said. 

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Defining academic freedom will be good for all parties "because it allows everyone to reflect again on what is happening in universities," De Vera said.

There are groups in UP who are "using the issue for their own political agenda" and it is the responsibility of security forces to protect the state against those who are to bring it down, he said.

"They are under the guise of freedom of expression yet they are stopping some groups the parents of so-called victims of NPA that wanted to stage a rally inside UP Diliman. They were stopped," he said referring to a group of pro-administration supporters who failed to stage a rally in UP last November for lack of a permit.

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"Some groups are saying they should not be allowed at any cost inside the campus," De Vera said, mentioning UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo. 

READ: Why is UP the Bastion of Student Activism?

"It is one thing to profess an ideological line. A professor should be able to develop critical thinking by presenting all views. If you present only one view inside the classroom, you are not developing critical thinking," De Vera said. In the Supreme Court's definition of academic freedom, professors are afforded the liberty to teach however they want to. 

"You are developing students who will be critical of government, I do not subscribe to that. It is to me, not the role of the professor," the CHED chairman said.

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