UPD contests DND MOA abrogation

(JAN. 20)—UP Diliman (UPD) Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo denounced the one-way repealing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA/Agreement) signed between UP and the Department of National Defense (DND) prohibiting the entry of military and police into any UP campus without prior notification.

In a statement released on Jan. 19, Nemenzo said “[t]here is therefore no justifiable reason for the sudden and unilateral termination of the Agreement.”

Signed on June 30, 1989 in the aftermath of martial law, the MOA states that neither military nor police can enter the premises, conduct operations, or take into custody any UP student, faculty or employee “without, as far as practicable, prior notice” to UP officials.

It stood for decades until on Jan. 15, 2021 when DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sent a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion informing him that the department has — without prior notice to UP officials — “terminated or abrogated effective this date.”

“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,” he said.

Lorenzana cited the alleged presence of “an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership in the CPP/NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army],” saying that the MOA “is being used by the CPP/NPA recruiters and supporters as a shield or propaganda.”

“We do not intend to station military or police inside UP campuses nor do we wish to suppress activist groups, academic freedom and freedom of expression. The Department of National Defense has nothing to gain from suppressing these rights and freedoms but will only alienate it further from the people. Our Armed Forces and Police are willing to reach out to the youth and provide them with another perspective on our nation and society. We want them to see their Armed Forces and Police as protectors worthy of trust, not fear,” he added.

Simply claiming that clandestine recruitment for terrorist organizations are occurring on campus, Nemenzo  said, “are not sufficient grounds to cancel the Agreement.”

“[T]he 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.”

Nemenzo added that the academic freedom the MOA guaranteed “has propelled our university into path-breaking areas of research and discoveries across various fields and disciplines.”

UP was and continues to be at the forefront on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,developing cheaper test kits; designing a Philippine-madepowered air purifying respirator for frontliners; designing, producing and donating ultraviolet disinfection chambers to hospitals so PPEs can be reused; organizing fundraising activities to benefit the vulnerable sectors of society; creating and translating COVID-19 information dissemination materials into other Philippine languages; providing mental health services for frontliners, among others.

On Jan. 18 “Philippine Collegian” obtained and published a slightly blurry but still legible photographs of the document on their social media accounts. The post quickly went viral, with #DefendUP shooting to the top tier of Twitter trends hours after the news broke.

One of the first UP officials to react was UP Visayas (UPV) Chancellor Clement C. Camposano, who said on the evening of Jan. 18 that UPV “like the rest of the UP System, will remain a bastion of academic freedom.This is not something anyone can abrogate. We will stand firm against any and all attempts to deprive us of our democratic rights.”

On the morning of Jan. 19 UP President Danilo L. Concepcion issued a statement, saying that “Our police and military authorities should have no fear of academic freedom… By and large, intellectual and political dissidents in UP have always been in the minority, but it is a critical minority that has historically been vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy.”

The sentiment would be echoed by the ensuing official statements from UPD, UP Mindanao, UPV, UP Cebu, UP Los Baños, UP Manila and UP Open University.

Nemenzo ended his statement with a reminder of the 50th year anniversary of the Diliman Commune, an event emblematic of the University’s commitment to academic freedom.

“This year we commemorate the 50thanniversary of the Diliman Commune; next year is the 50thanniversary of the imposition of martial rule. It is not the time to forget,” he said.

Posted: January 20, 2021 15:21