Dear Universities: An informal invitation
Dated Jan 15, a letter intended for University of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion was made public by the Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, its contents bearing an announcement that enraged the UP community and the rest of the country’s academic institutions—and justifiably so. The letter made formal the decision of the DND to unilaterally scrap the 1989 UP-DND Accord, a decades-long agreement to keep state forces away from the free academic grounds of UP. This abrogation of the Accord will then allow police and military personnel to enter the premises of the university without prior notice. Moreover, on Jan 26, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) supported Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr’s statement which essentially red-tagged schools to be “recruitment havens” for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), one among the 38 schools listed being our very own University.
Like an informal—arguably inhospitable and even ill-natured—invitation, the DND is weaseling their way into campus grounds, inviting themselves to places that have no need of them. They claim that the accord is a “hindrance in providing effective security, safety, and welfare of the students, faculty, and employees of UP.” Whether their decision is for the sake of a higher calling to protect its residents from a supposed danger, or for the purpose of strengthening the grip of tyranny that holds dissent and protests at bay, one must only look at the inconsistencies at play to discern the answer. Even then, the DND has no legal basis to terminate the mutual agreement, seeing that the accord did not include an exit clause and the decision to do so was made without the consent of UP.
On the other hand, the radical claims of the NTF-ELCAC regarding XU being ‘breeding grounds’ of the CPP-NPA recruitment activities are “totally false, baseless, and unfortunate,” discloses XU President Mars P. Tan during the Pakighinabi: University Actions on Nation Building online forum on Feb 16. These series of events are fundamentally just crackdowns on intellectual institutions who are openly critical about the government. To them, acts that are meant to be displays of democracy are instead perceived to be attacks and harassments towards those who govern us. It seems that during these times, activism is slowly descending to be synonymous with terrorism.
If they wish to purge our University of the alleged influences of violent extremist groups, we are still protected by The XU Magna Carta of Students’ Rights and Responsibilities for Undergraduate Students under Article X, “Right to Security”, Section 3, “Prohibition Against Militarization of School Campus”. It states that, “The pursuit of academic excellence and exercise of academic freedom can be attained only in an atmosphere free from fear and unreasonable restraint. Pursuant thereto, no military, detachment or any affiliation similar thereof shall be installed or be given special accord of residence on the school campus.” We must ensure that this provision is upheld by the University administration and is not broken by the likes of those that blemish our reputation. Be that as it may, these dangerous narratives being spun by the DND and the NTF-ELCAC endanger all students and the safe spaces where educational freedom is promised, as well as our abilities and responsibilities to express dissent and empower justice, regardless of our political and academic affiliations.C