The unilateral termination of the 1989 UP-DND Accord is another attempt to clamp down on democracy—it is a move reminiscent of the Marcos regime. Without evidence for his supporting arguments and without consultation from the University of the Philippines (UP), Secretary Delfin Lorenzana nonchalantly declared in a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion that the decades-old agreement has ended. Now, what does this mean for us?
The 1989 accord, which was preceded by the 1982 Soto-Enrile agreement, prohibits the police and military from entering the University of the Philippines’ campuses freely. We have to understand that the deal is a recognition that there was a gross abuse of power against the students of the university through the rampant disappearances and killings at the time. The parties would not have entered an agreement had there been no reason for it to be established. So let us ask ourselves, is the agreement “obsolete”, as the Department of National Defense (DND) claims? Is there no more gross abuse of power from our police and military?
We need not look further than the events of the past few months. Last June 2020, the police dispersed a rally against the Anti-Terror Law inside UP Cebu, arresting eight individuals in what was a clear violation of the 1989 accord. The police justified their actions by saying that the protesters violated the ban on mass gatherings amid the pandemic.
And outside UP campuses, these instances are more blatant. There was the murder of army veteran Winston Ragos, where cops planted evidence in the crime scene. And only recently, Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca was dismissed from service for grave misconduct after shooting dead a mother and her son in Tarlac. And how could we forget the bloody war on drugs by this administration—an undeniable violation of human rights posing as a crackdown on illegal drugs? Gross abuse of power by state forces is everywhere.
Yet for Lorenzana, students are seemingly a bigger threat. In his letter, he claimed of an “ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership” in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) and concluded that the accord was “a hindrance in providing effective security, safety, and welfare.” I cannot categorically deny or confirm with certainty whether any of his claims are true, but the DND has not offered any evidence, either, and as such, its reasoning comes across as plain red-tagging by the state of its own top state university.
While Lorenzana is so hell-bent on defeating insurrectionists, he overlooks their chief recruiter—President Rodrigo Duterte. While you may think this is a controversial statement, Duterte and his administration may just be pushing young people to join the CPP-NPA by feeding their anger with their draconian policies and despotism. Those in Malacañang are the ones fanning the flames and exponentially increasing the number of people who would rather fight the government.
The President continues to breed frustration among citizens by creating issues that divert the attention and energies of the people from other issues. His administration has developed a pattern that divides the focus of the country when matters of their incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power arise. When there was a demand for the Presidential Security Group to explain the illegal vaccination against COVID-19 among their ranks, an alleged rape case that was grossly mishandled and inflated by the police changed the focus of people. With the people focused on the issue of Sinovac vaccine prices this week, I wonder what new issue they would be adding in the national narrative to divert our attention?
By all means, I am not reducing the termination of the UP-DND accord issue to some mere distraction. But as I have observed with the current administration through the years, their pattern of leading with political opportunism, trampling human rights, and overstepping the laws of the land should have angered and made people come to their senses. Yet, some citizens choose to be dazed by the smoke and mirrors of the administration. If we tread this path where people refuse to see the truth, when the dust has settled, the Philippines will be left more ruined than when Duterte came into power.
The DND should rethink their ill-informed termination of the accord. Instead of targeting institutions that have ushered national development, they should inform themselves first who the real “enemies of the state” are. I hope more Filipinos will see beyond the mirage of this administration. Please look around you—look harder.
The powerful words of the former Philippine Collegian editor Abraham Sarmiento remind us, “Kung hindi tayo kikibo, sinong kikibo? Kung ‘di tayo kikilos, sinong kikilos?”
(Who will speak up if we do not speak up? Who will act if we do not act?)