The House of Representatives plans to launch an inquiry into the Department of National Defense’ (DND) decision to scrap its more than 30-year accord with the University of the Philippines (UP) that prohibits police and military presence inside the state university’s campuses.
Deputy House Speaker and Buhay Partylist Representative Lito Atienza said he fully supports calls made by some of his colleagues to conduct a probe.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman already filed House Resolution 1490 which urged the Committee on Human Rights to “immediately conduct” an inquiry.
Lagman asserted that DND’s unilateral termination of the agreement without prior consultation with and conformity of the state university is “illegal and void ab initio because the subject agreement was entered into bilaterally and mutually.”
During a radio interview, Atienza said it’s important for Congress to look into the matter to determine the very reason why the DND decided to abrogate its pact with UP. He said holding an inquiry will somehow help lessen the tension.
“Congress’ intervention and looking into the issue may help ease the tension,” Atienza said on Sunday. “Otherwise, there will be continued tension and there may be flash point which should not happen and we should prevent that. That is the purpose of the resolution and I support the efforts of my colleagues in Congress wanting to look into it.”
Atienza said there is no need for the DND to scrap the accord with UP to protect the university from recruitment activities being done by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army because it can be done through other means.
“They just need to be efficient with their work. Make their men more critical for them to determine who the troublemakers are so they can neutralize them. We are supportive of that. Through a Congressional act, hearing or investigation, we can find out from their directive, for DND Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana to explain his reason and maybe advise him if we think his solution has its shortcomings.”
In his letter sent to UP president Danilo Concepcion, Lorenzana said the scrapped agreement, signed in 1989 by former UP head Jose Abueva and then-Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, was perceived to be “a hindrance in providing effective security, safety, and welfare of the students, faculty, and employees of UP.”
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go and Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, a former national police chief, both support and respect the DND decision.
Go said there is nothing to be worried about because the military and police will always enforce the rule of law.
“I urge students and youth groups to focus on their studies and finish their education so they can help the government and contribute further to the country’s development as the country’s scholars,” he said.
In another radio interview, De la Rosa said there will be no violation of academic freedom in the long-delayed abrogation and emphasized that UP should not be afraid of military presence if there are no illegal activities happening inside the campus.
“Tell me if the police and military are interfering with academic freedom. If they do so, for sure, they will face charges,” he said. “The military and the police cannot just commit mistakes because they will be surely removed from the service.”