Addendum (January 27, 2021): The link to the 2016 article ‘PNP barricades entrances to F-Park’ was given more context, in that the cause for police presence was the then-arrival of the Japanese Emperor and Empress).
When student publications across the UP system first broke the story on the eve of January 18, it was immediately met with immense outrage from the UP community.
The Department of National Defense (DND) was calling Judgment Day on the 1989 UP-DND Accord. It was not long until netizens called to #DefendAcademicFreedom, #NoToCampusMilitarization, and finally #DefendUP on Twitter, driving conversation on why it shouldn’t be terminated.
Crucial in the context of the UP-DND accord is the case of Donato Continente, a staffer at the @phkule who was arrested on June 19, 1988 by the military and police at Vinzons Hall. This triggered discussions on the conduct of military ops on campus. #DefendUP— Renato Reyes, Jr. (@natoreyes) January 18, 2021
BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr. and Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te stand with the UP community
But online chatter and protest were not enough for the students, faculty, and staff of the university. As such, on the following Tuesday morning, they took to the grounds of UP Diliman their indignation against DND’s scheme, with students and progressive groups calling the abrogation an attack against academic freedom and the state’s latest plot against student activism.
Student Regent (SR)-select Renee Co was among those who joined the online and on-ground protest. She called on the UP community to defend the university’s safe spaces, emphasizing that this was only made possible because of the sacrifices of students through the years.
“Itong paglagay ng UP-DND Accord ay ginawa […] ng napakaraming Iskolar ng Bayan at buong UP community, at ang pagtanggal nito ay paglampas sa historical role ng UP bilang isang napakaimportanteng institusyon na nagpapadinig ng boses at mga demanda ng tao,” Co explained.
UP President Danilo Concepcion also showed up to back the indignation and spoke in front of the UP community.
UP President Danilo Concepcion: Maraming hindi lubos na nakakaunawa sa kahalagahan ng Accord na ito. Ito ay nagbibigay kalayaan sa ating mga estudyante sa pagiging malikhain dahil alam nila na walang sumusupil sa kanilang gawain. #DefendUP #DefendAcademicFreedom #JunkTerrorLaw pic.twitter.com/DDd2rIaJ9F— UPLB Perspective (@uplbperspective) January 19, 2021
UP president Danilo Concepcion at the protest
“Hindi nila maunawaan na ang accord na ito ay ang nagbibigay ng kalayaan sa ating mga estudyante at mga guro na maging malikhain at mapusok sa pag-iisip at paglilikha, sapagkat alam nila na walang susupil sa kanilang mga gawain. Sapagkat alam nila na walang nagmamanman sa kanilang bawa kilos at galaw,” Concepcion reads his statement.
In a response letter to DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the President also questioned the lack of ‘prior consultation’ with them. He also wants the DND to revoke its decision.
“At the same time, especially 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,” Concepcion said.
He then asked the DND head to think over his decisions and invited him to discuss matters further.
“May I urge you, therefore, to reconsider and revoke your abrogation, and request further that we meet to discuss your concerns in the shared spirit of peace, justice, and the pursuit of excellence,” addressing Lorenzana.
Other notable figures who joined progressive groups in the protest were Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago and UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo.
What is the 1989 UP-DND Accord and it matters so much to the university?
To put it simply, the UP-DND Accord was signed in 1989 by then UP President Jose Abueva and then-Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, to put up restrictions on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in entering UP campuses.
At that time, the country just restored its democracy after the ouster of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. So, this came after the state finally recognized that there was a need to safeguard the academic freedom and safety of UP students, who were always on the front lines of criticizing the government and its policies.
With the accord in effect, it meant that state forces must first obtain permission from respective campuses before they enter its premises or conduct any military or police operations.
eto video nong lecture part pa nila tas ramdam ko na kinikilabutan na mga estudyante nong time na to. grabe sobrang nakakagalit nito ang kapal kapal ng mukha ng afp at pnp. wag kayong mag malinis diyan. https://t.co/NUHsUbh5SN pic.twitter.com/FDPxLgcNDe— jade (@jadecorpuz_) January 18, 2021
In fact, in UP Los Baños alone, there were numerous instances that state forces compromised the safety of UP students.
In a March 2019 National Service Training Program (NSTP) 1 lecture, invited resource speakers from the AFP red-tagged UPLB student leaders and progressive organizations, accusing them of being communist insurgents.
Meanwhile, early last year, a peaceful student demonstration on campus was featured in a pro-government propaganda video of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) — again, accusing students of being rebels.
UPLB student leaders have also been receiving death threats since the imposition of COVID-19 lockdowns. (READ: Crackdown in the lockdown: A timeline of ECQ death threats)
(Related stories: UPLB Admin stays silent on Red October, OSA tells students to ‘wait’ for statement; PNP barricades entrances to F-Park [wherein it was reported that police presence was due to the arrival of the Japanese Empreror and Empress]; Eight detained in Cebu after Anti-Terror Bill protest)
Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. has also slammed the abrogation, saying “it is in this light that we view the unilateral rescission of the 1989 UP-DND accord as an assault against the freedom of UP as an institution. It comes at the heels of earlier threats to discontinue funding for the University, which was intended to silence and intimidate us.”
After the abrogation of the UP-DND pact, right-wing Duterte Youth Partylist Rep. Ducielle Cardema is also now calling Lorenzana to cancel a similar agreement with the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemned the ‘desperate move,’ and calling on the public to “fight against these fascist attacks and to uphold academic freedom.”
A protest will be held tomorrow at 1 PM in UPLB Carabao Park to condemn DND’s move. [P]
Photo from Sonya Mariella Castillo