The brouhaha over the scrapping last week of the 1989 accord between the University of the Philippines and the Department of Defense by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana seems to be getting out of bounds.
UP President Danilo Concepcion described Lorenzana’s action as a “nightmare.” He said, “Given our experience of martial law, we must reject any form or semblance of militarization on our campuses, which will have a chilling effect deleterious to academic freedom.”
The l989 accord, signed by then UP president Jose Abueva and then Defense Secretary Fide V. Ramos, specifically provided that “no member of the police may conduct operations within UP campuses without prior coordination with, or as requested by UP authorities.”
In abrogating the accord, Lorenzana said the agreement was obsolete and was being used as a “shield” by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army to recruit new members from among young and idealistic students. It is an undeniable fact that young and brilliant students are easily lured towards romantic adventurism and may end up joining the NPA in the hills.
In February 2019, John Carlo Alberto, a student of the UP in Los Banos, who joined the NPA, was killed in an encounter with the military. In November 2017, UP Manila student Josephine Lapira was among the 14 NPA rebels killed in an encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas. In June 2020, Jolina Calot, a student of University of Eastern Philippines in Cebu City, was also killed in an encounter with the military.
The untimely deaths of these young students, sad as they are, may not be an offshoot of the l989 pact. But we tend to disagree that the scrapping of the accord would result in abridging students’ academic freedom.
UP students, as all students in other universities, are free to pursue their studies, expand their horizons, tinker with new ideas, and follow their dreams, and nobody will disturb them for as long as they do not commit any crime. In short, academic freedom is not at stake here.
We hope that UP officials and politicians, who are quick to denounce the government, would stay calm and not add gasoline to the fire.