An accord that restricts the movement of security forces at the University of the Philippines was meant to provide a safe ground for free speech, not for extremist beliefs as claimed by authorities, said a student leader who witnessed how it was crafted three decades ago.
The Department of Defense also has no right to unilaterally terminate the agreement, said Tony La Viña, president of the UP Law Student Government when it was forged in 1989. He also teaches at UP Law.
"The campuses of University of the Philippines is every UP student’s safe harbor. This does not mean that every Iskolar ng Bayan defies the rule of law," he said on Facebook.
"Rather, the UP campus offers a sacred ground upon which a UP student or a UP professor can freely express what he or she believes without fear of judgment or persecution," he said.
The 1989 accord was borne out of the arrest of Philippine Collegian staffer Donato Continente at Vinzons Hall the same year.
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The defense department should "trust in the Filipino youth and allow them to learn from free flowing intellectual discourse and eventually, for them to discover the right path to walk in for our beloved country’s future," he said.
La Vina said the UP community must stand together. "We must not allow our ideological or other differences to divide us. This is a a perilous moment but it is a moment - and it will pass and we will be stronger if we are united to face the coming onslaught."