MANILA, Philippines – With the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 agreement between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND), the Human Rights Commission (CHR) said Wednesday that t was now legitimate to ask whether the government was considering the abolition of civil and political rights within the first university.
In a statement, the CHR said it was “alarmed” by the scrapping of the agreement, which prohibits security forces from entering UP campuses across the country without prior authorization.
“Although some may consider it alarmist, it is now legitimate to ask whether the government, through the army (and not the police), is considering the suppression of civil and political rights, including academic freedom, within the university. Otherwise, why threaten the university with the symbolic act of repudiating the said Accord? says the CHR.
The commission also pointed out that the mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is different from that of the Philippine National Police (PNP), whose responsibility is to preserve peace and order.
“The MDN, with which the UP has concluded the agreement in question, is in charge of the Armed Forces, whose mandate is different from that of the PNP. DND’s primary concern is to protect the state against external and internal threats. Maintaining peace and order is the purview of the Philippine National Police,” the CHR said.
The UP-DND agreement is, for the CHR, more than an agreement prohibiting the entry of state forces into UP campuses. “Viewed from a history of abuse of power since the dictatorship, it serves as an assurance that the freedom to express dissent, to protest and the exercise of academic freedom will be respected by the government, especially the police and the army.”
He noted that the agreement has helped protect students, faculty and workers at the university from “arbitrary and capricious repression” of protected rights for more than three decades.
“However, at present, when human rights abuses continue to abound, DND’s unilateral termination of the said agreement with the UP only casts further doubts on its intention and aggravates the climate distrust of the government,” the HRC said. .
In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said DND had abrogated the agreement between UP President Jose Abueva and Defense Secretary , Fidel Ramos. He claimed the deal was used by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as a “shield” for their recruitment.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lorenzana defended the move and said the deal was “obsolete” and that the UP “has become a haven for enemies of the state.”
But for the CHR, DND “should have used good judgment to express its concerns to UP and find ways to move forward, instead of immediately terminating the Agreement, in pursuit of the best interest of all”.
The commission said, “There is no justification for the government to stifle the legitimate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights, including that of academic freedom within universities. And there’s no need to agree on that.
“More than anything, the agreement between UP and DND underscored the recognition by both institutions that the expression of intellectual dissent is part of the academic freedom that should [to] be respected by the government,” he added.
EXPLANATION: The 1989 UP-DND Agreement
The UP community denounces the removal of the DND pact
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