Chancellor, UP Diliman
19 January 2021
The unilateral and unjustifiable abrogation by the Department of National Defense (“DND”) of the Agreement (“Agreement”) entered into on 30 June 1989 by and between the University of the Philippines System (“UP”) and the DND causes grave concern for several reasons.
The Agreement was signed in 1989 in the aftermath of martial law. It was a democratic response to the suppression of the University (and all freedoms) during the dictatorship and is a testament to academic freedom. Since then, the Agreement has effectively promoted cooperation between UP and the DND. For over three decades, the Agreement has allowed the parties to fulfill each of their mandates: the promotion of learning and healthy intellectual inquiry on the one hand, and the just enforcement of the law on the other.
There is therefore no justifiable reason for the sudden and unilateral termination of the Agreement.
Claims about clandestine campus recruitment for terrorist organizations are not sufficient grounds to cancel the Agreement. This is because the Agreement safeguards not only the constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom but also law enforcement when it states: “Nothing herein shall be construed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land.” Clearly, the implementation of the Agreement does not hinder law enforcement. The parties recognized that academic freedom and law enforcement are not mutually exclusive, and thus found no reason to put a clause in the Agreement which would allow for its unilateral termination. Academic freedom is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution; it is not a privilege which can be revoked when it is deemed inconvenient.
Let me emphasize: academic freedom is the lifeblood of UP. It is the air our community breathes and thrives on as it nurtures our critical minds and allows our imaginations to soar beyond the boundaries of conventions. In UP, anyone should be able to think and speak out, no matter what he/she espouses. One of the strengths of UP education is the exposure of our students to the widest range of perspectives. We trust that they will employ reason and critical thinking to discern and distinguish truth from lies, and right from wrong.
Academic freedom has propelled our university into path-breaking areas of research and discoveries across various fields and disciplines. Academic freedom has allowed us to do what we do best: to nurture young minds to dream and think big for our country, to be mission-driven and service-oriented. This is why we must defend, and will defend UP as a as a zone of free thought and free speech.
This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Diliman Commune; next year is the 50th anniversary of the imposition of martial rule. It is not the time to forget.
We stand by the Agreement, the UP-DND Accord of 1989. At all times, we will protect and defend academic freedom, and our university, so that we may continue to fulfill our mandate to serve the nation.
Mabuhay ang UP!