By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — With the termination of a 1989 pact banning the entry of police and military forces without prior coordination, the security sector should come up with an agreement with the University of the Philippines on boundaries to be observed, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Tuesday.
In a statement, Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense, said this is to prevent the move from negatively affecting the culture of academic freedom in the state university.
“Once the pact is terminated, what will the security sector do? We don’t know that yet. Probably they could come to an agreement that there are boundaries to be observed,” Lacson said in an interview on ANC.
He also warned the security sector it might be overstepping its bounds if the move is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms enjoyed by the UP community.
“If it is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms being enjoyed by UP in general, you can describe it as that – overstepping,” he said.
The Department of National Defense has unilaterally ended the 31-year-old agreement with UP, citing information that the New People’s Army is recruiting students inside UP campuses.
Lacson noted that during the Senate hearings on red-tagging, it was established that students are being recruited to the NPA not only inside UP but in other universities, to the point they are being killed in encounters.
“To join the militant organizations, that’s fine. You can protest all you want. But when you bear arms against the government and you are very young, you are vulnerable, you are easily radicalized, and the hotbed of recruitment would be UP, PUP and other universities, then I think the security sector has studied all the factors involved before they acted on the matter,” he said.
But he added the termination of the pact will affect the culture of academic freedom in UP, whose community is known to be independent and involved in political issues.
“Definitely it will affect the culture because UP is known to be independent and they are involved in so many political issues. They enjoy so much freedom. And then all of a sudden you take it away from them, that really hurts. Definitely there will be outcry, protests and disagreements. Let’s see how it shapes up in the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros denounced the unilateral termination of the longstanding UP-DND accord banning the entry of security forces without prior coordination.
“Kung desidido ang administrasyon maghanap ng komunista, pagdiskitahan nila yung mga komunistang lantarang nanghihimasok sa West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.
Needlessly, she added that propping up the “communist bogeyman” has always been an obscene vanity project and an excuse for their red tagging and disregard for basic human rights.
“The University of the Philippines is a bastion of student activism and its grounds must continue to be a safe space for dissent and peaceful assembly,” she said. (AI/MTVN)