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UP President to Defense Chief: Academic Freedom Must be Upheld

The UP President called for a reconsideration.
by Clara Rosales
Jan 19, 2021
Photo/s: shutterstock
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The President of the University of the Philippines on Tuesday called for the protection of academic freedom after the Department of National Defense unilaterally terminated their accord that bars state forces from entering campus without prior notice.

UP President Danilo Concepcion, in a letter addressed to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, expressed his "grave concern" over the abrogation of the agreement, and called it "unnecessary and unwarranted."

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The accord was signed in 1989 by then UP President Jose Abueva and Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, and prohibits military and police from stepping foot on any campus without informing campus officials first. Notable exemptions to the agreement are "cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency."

The state university has been known to be a bastion of student activism and has had a reputation for expressing dissent.

"By and large, intellectual and political dissidents in UP have always been in the minority, but it is a critical minority that has historically been vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy," Concepcion said.

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He added that the accord kept peace for 30 years and any disagreements or misunderstandings encountered were resolved amicably. Given the university's experience with martial law, he said UP "must reject any form or semblance of militarization on our campuses, which will have a chilling effect deleterious to academic freedom."

"We regret that the agreement was abrogated unilaterally, without the prior consultation that would have addressed the concerns you raised in your letter. Instead of instilling confidence in our police and military, your decision can only sow more confusion and mistrust, given that you have not specified what it is that you exactly aim to do or put in place in lieu of the protections and courtesies afforded by the agreement," Concepcion said.

Lorenzana defended his decision on the same day, calling the univeristy a "safe haven for enemies of the state," and stating that the signed agreement had become "obsolete." The government at that time forged the agreement with UP as a "gesture of courtesy," he added.

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Lorenzana sought cooperation from UP to "work together to protect our students from extremism and destructive armed struggle."

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