University of the Philippines students, like the Iskos and Iskas before them, must fight to ensure that their campuses remain safe havens for free speech, a veteran student leader said Wednesday.
The challenge came from League of Filipino Students chairperson Sonia Sotto, whose 1982 agreement with then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile served as the blueprint for an accord between UP and the Defense Department seven years later, barring troops from going to campus without prior notice.
The DND unilaterally abrogated the agreement this week, accusing UP of providing succor to "enemies of the state." The move sparked outrage in the community that has a reputation for student activism.
"It is now the Iskas and Iskos of today's turn to fight for that historic accord," Sotto told reportr.
"Lagi lang nilang isipin ang sinabi ni Jose Rizal na kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan. Ang paaralaan ay hindi lamang ang apat na sulok ng classroom kung 'di ang buong lipunan. Good luck sa kanilang paglalakbay," she said.
Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana said the termination of the deal would change "nothing" in UP.
"They will exist as before. They can do anything they want. They can shout to high heavens, put their graffitis around UP," he said.
"It is when you start plotting against the government ay hindi na maganda yan. We are the protector of the people, 'yun ang aming sinumpaan," he said.
Lorenzana's challenge: Explain
Lorenzana on Wednesday said he was open to talk, but only after UP answers his allegations on why some student-activists join the New People's Army. He pointed to a document with photos of the "students" in a televised briefing.
"Sagutin muna nila ito," Lorenzana said. "UP should answer me truly kung bakit nagkaganito yung mga students... If they can explain that, we'll talk. If not, forget it," he said.
The 1989 agreement was "voided by the passage of time" since when it was signed, there was no Philippine National Police yet, said Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the military spokesman.
The PNP was formed to replace the PC or Philippine Constabulary which was under the military and the defense department. The police, under the current set up, is under the interior and local government department.
Lorenzana said the agreement proved "cumbersome" and "even violative of public policy" when authorities have to ask permission from UP before they could make an arrest within campus. He refused to cite an example.
The UP Police Department told reportr that it had not received word on any policy changes due to the termination of the agreement.
"I assure everybody that we will protect you. Walang mang-aabuso. We will allow you to do legitimate dissent, assemblies, whatever... Wala kaming pakialaman dun basta within the bounds of the law," said Lorenzana.