On January 15, 2021, Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary of National Defense, sent a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion informing him of the department’s unilateral abrogation of the UP-DND agreement signed in 1989 between then DND Sec. Fidel V. Ramos and then UP President Jose Abueva. The accord forbids the country’s police and military to enter the university campus without prior permission from UP officials.
Lorenzana wrote: “In pursuit of true national peace and development, it is time to terminate or abrogate the existing ‘Agreement’ with the end view of protecting and securing the institution and youth against the enemies of the Filipino people without sacrificing the freedoms we have preserved for about thirty (30) years since this ‘Agreement’ was executed.”
In response, Mr. Concepcion, wrote: “ it is totally unnecessary and unwarranted, and may result in worsening rather than improving relations between our institutions, and detract from our common desire for peace, justice, and freedom in our society.” Lawyer Concepcion urged the retired General “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.” (See video https://fb.watch/36mmmVhiOH/)
UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo issued his official statement on the abrogation of the UP-DNP Accord. He said,“Nagkamali sila sa hakbang na ipawalang-bisa ang Accord. Lalo nila tayong pinapalakas… Hindi tayo aatras. We will DefendUP.”
On January 19, UP students gathered at the grounds of Quezon Hall where the UP President and UP Diliman Chancellor both read their statements. Various opposition political leaders expressed their criticism of the Defence Department’s unilateral action. The Vice President Leni Robredo said, “This is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism.”
Senator Francis Pangilinan, who was a UP Student Council President and Student Regent, tweeted: “Tinutulan natin ang panghihimasok ng diktador noon. UP has always been and will always be a citadel of freedom and democracy. No to the unilateral and arbitrary termination of the Enrile-Soto Accord. Pakiusap lang. Please don’t mess with UP.”
House Deputy Minority Leader Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said: “UP is known for its openness to ideas and debates as well as academic freedom, these are the ideals that the DND are trying to suppress by unilaterally abrogating the accord,” he said.
Senator Rissa Hontiveros was quite blunt. She said: “I denounce the unilateral termination of the longstanding UP-DND Accord. Kung desidido ang administrasyon maghanap ng komunista, pagdiskitahan nila ‘yung mga komunistang lantarang nanghihimasok sa West Philippine Sea (If this administration is decided in going after communists, then they should focus on the communists blatantly taking over the West Philippine Sea).”
“Needlessly propping up the “communist bogeyman” has always been an obscene vanity project and an excuse for their red-tagging and disregard for basic human rights. The University of the Philippines is a bastion of student activism and its grounds must continue to be a safe space for dissent and peaceful assembly,” she added.
Veteran congressman Edcel Lagman of Albay puts it quite clearly and bluntly: “The repressive policies of the Duterte administration have gone berserk as it is now open season for the military invasion of UP campuses. The unilateral and baseless abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND accord red-tags the entire UP constituencies nationwide …It is fraught with emerging violations of academic freedom, civil liberties, and fundamental rights protected and enshrined in the Constitution. The termination comes in the heels of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 whose odious and constitutional infirmities have been challenged before the Supreme Court in 37 petitions, the biggest number of petitions in history assailing a statute.”
Many other opposition politicians expressed their criticisms against the administration’s move against Freedom.
The UP Diliman Student Council called for a rally this morning, January 19, at the UP campus. In a statement, the Council declared, among others: “Kasunod ito ng maraming tangkang pagmilitarisa sa mga pamantasan sa ilalim ni Duterte. Sa gitna ng pandemya ay lalong kakunde-kundena ang pagbuhos ng rekurso ng pambansang administrasyon sa militarisasyon ng mga pamantasan kaysa ipatupad ang ligtas na balik-eskwela.”
The UPD Student Council chair Froilan Cariaga decried the fact that instead of finding ways to solve educational problems due to the pandemic, the government is trying to militarize universities.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed his support for the abrogation of the agreement.
The 1989 agreement is a renewal of the previous agreement between the school campuses as represented by the chair of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) Sonia Soto, Manny Ceneta, chair of the Youth for Nationalism & Democracy, and J. V Bautista, President of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines; and the country’s Defence Minister Juan Ponce-Enrile under the Marcos regime. On Oct. 28, 1981, Minister Ponce-Enrile sent a letter addressed to the student leaders enumerating the terms they had agreed upon a week earlier.
Ms. Sonia Soto insists that even with the unilateral abrogation of the Abueva-Ramos accord, the so-called Enrile-Soto agreement still holds.