The University of the Philippines has become a "safe haven for enemies of the state," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday, defending his decision to end an agreement that bars troops from campus without prior notice.
The agreement signed in 1989 has become "obsolete," Lorenzana said. The government at that time forged the agreement with UP as a "gesture of courtesy." During the martial law years, the state university built its reputation as the bastion of student activism.
Lorenzana's move came as the UP community and members of progressive groups raised alarm over alleged red-tagging of government forces. Authorities said supporters of the left have long used civilian groups as cover.
It sparked rage on Twitter. As of 8 a.m., there were 81,000 posts with the hashtag #DefendUP.
Since the agreement was signed in 1989, Lorenzana said UP "has become the breeding ground of intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government."
"The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state," he said.
"The Department of National Defense will neither renege nor shirk on its duty to protect the rights of the majority. It will not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly and free speech," he said.
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Lorenzana sought cooperation from UP to "work together to protect our students from extremism and destructive armed struggle."
"The Department of National Defense only wants what is best for our youth. Let us join hands to protect and nurture our young people to become better citizens of our great nation," he said.