Rights group supports call condemning the “abrogation” of UP-DND Accord

Human rights alliance Karapatan today expressed support for the administrators, students, faculty, staff and non-academic employees, a

Human rights alliance Karapatan today expressed support for the administrators, students, faculty, staff and non-academic employees, and alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) in decrying the Department of National Defense’s (DND) “abrogation” of the 1989 UP-DND accord regarding the conduct of military and police operations within UP campuses, with DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana claiming in a statement on Tuesday, January 19, that the university has become “a safe haven for enemies of the state” because of the accord.

“Lorenzana is outright red-tagging an entire university with his unilateral ‘abrogation’ of the UP- DND Accord — and such threats and harassment of the UP community, including its alumni, is a perilous and brazen affront to the exercise of academic freedom and democratic rights as well as the safety and security of the university’s members. The DND’s arbitrary invalidation of the accord is yet another indication of the Duterte administration’s intolerance of critical thinking and political dissent which is being exercised by members of the UP community,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Last Friday, January 15, Lorenzana wrote to UP President Danilo Concepcion notifying him of the “termination” or “abrogation” of the said agreement, writing that the accord was a “hindrance in providing effective security, safety, and welfare of students, faculty, and employees of UP” and citing the so-called recruitment of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army in the university. Lorenzana further stated that the accord has become “obsolete” for “times and circumstances have changed since the agreement was signed” three years after the downfall of the fascist Marcos dictatorship.

Palabay scored Lorenzana’s statement, saying that “what is archaic and obsolete is the government’s use of the Communist bogey in every aspect of its governance, from pandemic response to peace and development issues, to quell public criticism and discontent on its failure to protect and uphold people’s rights. Lumang tugtugin na ang Red Scare hysteria ni Secretary Lorenzana, na ginamit na ni Marcos para ideklara ang ang batas militar. Ang medieval na po, Secretary Lorenzana, ay ang pag-akto ng ating kasundaluhan at kapulisan bilang private armies ng isang warlord tulad ni Pangulong Duterte,” Palabay said.

“The UP-DND Accord is a product of the youth movement’s struggle against the Marcos dictatorship and all forms of fascist attacks by state security forces, including those against UP’s students, faculty, staff and alumni. It traces its formalization into an agreement to the campaign for the restoration of student councils, publications and organizations during Marcos’ martial law and against the succeeding violations conducted even within the confines of the academia in 1989, when Philippine Collegian staff member Donato Continente was abducted, tortured and detained by State agents,” the Karapatan official continued.

She further stated that a similar agreement exists between the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the DND in 1990, and that “these agreements embody the grave distrust and condemnation of the repressive tactics of State security forces in schools or academic institutions. Despite such agreements, police and military presence and activities within campuses have continued, with forums red-tagging student organizations and bodies to the closing down of alternative learning institutions for indigenous youth. With the abrogation of the accord, the DND wants to shortcut its means in conducting military and police operations with impunity within these spaces.”

“What is in fact more relevant right now is for government officials to recognize and respect people’s rights — a principle that they have especially abandoned, disregarded and violated in a more marked fashion during the pandemic and in the past four years of the Duterte presidency. We stand with the UP community and with youth and students all over the country in defending rights and liberties within and outside the confines of the academe. We demand an end to the Duterte administration’s attacks against the youth and people,” Palabay concluded.

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