Academic freedom assured sans DND-UP agreement

Academic freedom assured sans DND-UP agreement

MANILA – Academic freedom is not, in any way, curtailed with the termination of the almost 31-year old Department of National Defense (DND) and University of the Philippines (UP) agreement barring military and police from entering UP campuses.

“UP will still be able to execute these rights even in the absence of such agreement – UP is still free to choose who may teach, what is taught, how such lessons are taught in class, as well as who may be admitted to such a prestigious institution,” State Solicitor Gabriel S. Villanueva said in a statement Tuesday.

Reacting to criticisms on the termination of the DND-UP agreement by DND Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on Jan. 15, he said academic freedom is protected by the Constitution.

“‘Academic freedom’ is right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public welfare calls for some restraint,” said Villanueva, who is also the spokesperson of the Office of the Solicitor General for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC).

The Constitution allows merely the State’s regulation and supervision of educational institutions, and not the deprivation of their rights, he added.

“Undeniably, the school’s prerogative to provide standards for its teachers and to determine whether these standards have been met is in accordance with academic freedom that gives the educational institution the right to choose who should teach,” he said.

Prior notice requirement

The termination or abrogation of the DND-UP agreement will only remove the prior notice requirement to the President, Chancellor, or Dean of the regional unit concerned before a search or arrest warrant may be served on any student, faculty, or employee of UP.

“Such prior notice unnecessarily hinders law enforcement officers by requiring them to send notice before serving any warrant – not to mention that any delay in the service of such warrants may spell the escape of the subject,” Villanueva lamented.

The 1989 Agreement, which was signed on June 30, 1989, requires that prior notice be given by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, then Philippine Constabulary, or the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit intending to conduct military or police operations in any of the UP campuses, to the University President, the Chancellor of the constituent university, or the Dean of the regional unit concerned, or their respective officers-in-charge in the event of their absence, when the situation so warrants.

Exceptions to the said requirement included hot pursuit cases and ordinary transit.

Violation of rules of court

Requiring prior notice as the agreement dictates, Villanueva said, violates the rules of court since the rules do not require that prior notice be given to the UP President, Chancellor, or Dean of the unit concerned before a warrant may validly be implemented.

“It also violates the Equal Protection Clause since it requires law enforcement officers special steps to comply with before they can validly implement a warrant,” he said.

Another clear hindrance to law enforcement, he said, is the prohibition of custodial investigation, and the service of search or arrest warrants to any UP student, faculty, or employee without prior notice to the concerned UP official.

Peaceful assembly, protest intact

He assured that despite the agreement termination, peaceful protests and assemblies can still be held.

The freedom to peaceful assembly and protest remains intact because it stems from the constitution, not the agreement, he added.

Villanueva echoed Secretary Lorenzana’s sentiment that the government does not intend to assign military or police personnel inside any of the UP campuses, nor will it suppress activism and freedom of expression.

“The presence of uniformed personnel should never elicit fear, rather, it should assuage fear since the role of these personnel is the protection of citizens,” he added.

Meanwhile, he admitted that several schools, not just UP, have undeniably become the hotbed for CPP/NPA recruitment activities brought to light by rebel returnees.

“The systems in place for decades now have not changed the steady growth of terrorist organizations, as such, new steps must now be undertaken to remedy the situation,” he said. (PNA)

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