The absence of an exit clause for a unilateral move for either party to scrap the 1989 University of the Philippines (UP) — Department of National Defense (DND) Accord means the DND cannot abrogate the agreement.
This was the strong contention of UP at the recent webinar by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of San Francisco (UPAASF) and moderated by Board Director of UPAASF Odette Alcazaren-Keeley last February 7.
UP Chancellor Dr. Fidel Nemenzo provided the historical context on the 32-year Accord. Lawyer. Ruben Carranza, Dr. Jennifer Mijares Zimmerman, and Dr. Anton Juan shared their views on the stakes of the arbitrary abrogation of the agreement, on academic freedom, and civil rights. Scores of UP alumni in the Philippines and abroad also logged in.
Nemenzo recalled they were shocked on January 18 to see on social media a January 15 letter by DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana to UP President Danilo Concepcion abrogating the agreement, citing that it has become a hindrance to the security, safety and welfare of students and faculty of UP.
Lorenzana claimed that UP has turned into a recruitment ground and safe haven for enemies of the state, particularly communists who are waging armed revolution.
The Accord was spurred by the arrest and detention of Collegian staff member Donato Continente for alleged involvement in the killing of U.S. Army Col. James Rowe. Continente was released from prison after 15 years.
Nemenzo’s father Dr. Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo was then the UP faculty regent and was a signatory to the Accord that somehow assuaged concerns over military presence in campuses. The elder Nemenzo remembered the talks to be very friendly.
“The agreement was a democratic response to the suppression of UP and all freedoms during the dictatorship. Since then, it has served as the framework of cooperation between UP and the DND and for over three decades allowed the parties to fulfill each of their mandates — on the part of UP the promotion of learning and intellectual inquiry and on the part of military, law enforcement,” Nemenzo shared.
Nemenzo maintained Lorenzana’s statement that UP has become the breeding ground for terrorist organization is not sufficient ground for the abrogation of the agreement especially since the agreement has no exit clause that would allow for its unilateral termination.
For his part Carranza (himself a former DND Assistant Secretary) regards the 1989 agreement as a balance of power, three years after the EDSA revolution, between a military “that has not yet been held accountable for its complicity to the dictatorship on one hand and a progressive People Power movement on the other hand.”
“It is more of a political agreement than a legal instrument between two state institutions. One that has a monopoly of force in the state and (the other a) higher learning that has academic freedom that recognizes the role of both institutions in the state. You would not want the military to be a guarantor of your academic freedom, would you?” asked Carranza.
Carranza believes that Lorenzana’s claim that the 1989 UP-DND agreement was simply a courtesy accorded to UP was wrong because “it was a concession that the (Marcos) dictatorship was gone and that they could no longer act the way they did during the dictatorship without the dictator.”
“And now for Lorenzana to say that the agreement is now obsolete because times have changed, is Lorenzana, in effect, saying that there is a new dictator in power? The abrogation of the agreement implies that there are people in the government who think that they can now bring back the dictatorship, the repression, even the corruption during the Marcos period even without Marcos,” Carranza stated.
For her part, Northwest, Florida pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Mijares-Zimmerman cited her UP training of speaking up for those who cannot was put to good use while providing health care for underserved population for 20 years. It was the same spirit that prompted her to run in 2018 as the Democratic party candidate to be the Representative of the 1st Congressional District of Florida against eventual winner and Republican Matt Gaetz.
Dr. Anton Juan, for his part, viewed the abrogation of the agreement as a diversionary tactic by the present administration.
An avowed National People’s Artist or “NPA,” Juan recalled Philippine history when artists like him created plays on issues to critique political issues in different eras.