MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte backed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s move to scrap the Department of National Defense’s (DND) pact with the University of the Philippines (UP) that bars police and military inside the university campuses, Malacañang said Tuesday.
“Secretary Lorenzana is an alter ego of the President. Of course, the President supports the decision of Secretary Lorenzana,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual Palace press briefing.
Lorenzana, in a Jan. 15 letter addressed to UP President Danilo Concepcion, announced his decision to terminate the DND-UP agreement signed on June 30, 1989.
Lorenzana scrapped the deal, as he believed that UP has become the “breeding ground” for communist rebels.
He said the DND will not tolerate anyone who will violate the laws in the guise of “lawful public dissent, free assembly, and free speech.”
The Defense chief added that the 1989 pact has become “obsolete” as circumstances have changed through the years.
Surveillance work allowed
Roque said the military is allowed to conduct surveillance activities inside UP, so long as the university’s rights are “protected.”
“They can do surveillance in the whole Philippines. Ang hindi po pupwede (What is not allowed) is to intrude into protected rights,” he said.
The deal between the DND and UP aims to protect the university from military intervention, especially during protests.
UP’s academic freedom not infringed
Despite Lorenzana’s latest move, Roque also ensured that the government will not encroach on the UP’s academic freedom.
“Wala naman pong paglabag sa academic freedom. (There is no violation of academic freedom),” Roque said.
He gave the assurance after Concepcion, in a statement released on Tuesday, said the scrapping of the DND’s deal with UP will have a “chilling effect deleterious to academic freedom.”
Roque, however, believed that the UP would not allow anyone to endanger the university’s academic freedom.
“Nasa mga taga-UP rin po iyan, ang tingin ko naman po dahil napakatagal kong nagtagal diyan sa UP, 15 taon, hindi po nila papayagan na mabale-wala at malabag ang kanilang karapatan sa academic freedom (It is also up to those who are from UP because I think, for 15 years that I have been there, they would not allow their right to academic freedom to be endangered),” he said.
Concepcion asked Lorenzana to rethink its decision to abrogate the agreement preventing state forces from entering UP campuses sans proper notification.
Roque said Concepcion should give a “clearer” explanation as to why the DND should reconsider its abrogation of the deal with UP.
“Papakinggan naman po iyan pero kinakailangan, mag-salita pa po ng mas malinaw si President Danilo Concepcion nang malaman ang kaniyang paninidigan at kung ano ‘yung mga dahilan kung bakit dapat ma-reconsider ‘yun (The request will be heard, but President Danilo Concepcion should give a clearer explanation so we would know why we need to reconsider [the scrapping of the deal]),” he said. (AI/MTVN/PNA)