The University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense (UP-DND) agreement that secretary Delfin Lorenzana wants ended stemmed from an abduction of an employee inside the campus in 1989, alumni recalled.
UP College of Mass Communications professor Danilo Arao said their Philippine Collegian employee Donato Continente was abducted on the night of June 16, 1989 in front of the university’s Vinzon’s Hall by covert operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“As a news writer of the Philippine Collegian (at the time), I remember the abduction of our staff Donato Continente on the night of June 16 at Vinzons Hall. He was tortured and forced to confess to the killing of Col. James Rowe. This is why the UP-DND accord was signed 14 days later,” Arao said.
Rowe was a United States military advisor to the then Corazon Aquino government under the Joint US Military Advisory Group who was killed by the New People’s Army’s (NPA) Alex Boncayao Brigade.
Arao recalled that the so-called arresting officers “acted like goons who just simply forced Donat (Continente’s nickname) inside a vehicle.
“[H]e was brought to (Camp) Crame but he was surfaced the day after (or two days after) the abduction, the now journalism professor recalled of the covert operations.
“Donat’s abduction was frightening then. He was simply snatched in front of Vinzon’s Hall. Extrajudicial killing was rampant then and we were very worried for him,” he added in Filipino.
After being convicted with fellow Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyonalismo member Juanito Itaas, Continente was released in 2005.
In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, Lorenzana said the agreement is “terminated or abrogated effective this date (January 15).”
The agreement prevents state forces from entering UP campuses without coordinating with the university administration.
It was signed between then UP President Jose Abueva and national defense secretary Fidel Ramos on June 30, 1989 disallowing military and police presence on campus.
It was an update of the so-called Sotto-Enrile Accord of 1982 between then League of Filipino Students chairperson Sonia Sotto and national defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile as the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship formally ended its Martial Law.
In his letter, Lorenzana cited alleged Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA recruitment in UP and to prevent further alienation between UP students and the State’s armed forces as reasons for his decision.
“We want them (the students) to see their Armed Forces and Police as protectors worthy of trust, not fear,” Lorenzana claimed.
What the Agreement says
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general and former UP student Renato Reyes, Jr. said it is crucial to remember what happened to Continente in understanding why the agreement came into being.
“[It] triggered discussions on the conduct of military operations on campus…[as it] laid down guidelines in the conduct of police and military operations so that what happened to Donat in UP would not be repeated,” Reyes said.
Among the accord’s important provisions is one that requires the AFP and PNP to notify the UP administration of military and police operations including the serving of search and arrest warrants inside UP.
“The military cannot just enter UP campus grounds at any time, unless there is an emergency or there is hot pursuit of suspects, or unless there is a request for police assistance by the administration,” Reyes explained.
The UP-DND accord also prohibits the AFP and PNP from interfering in peaceful protest actions inside UP premises. Such protests are the responsibility of the UP administration.
UP campuses nationwide had been the venues of protest actions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and the Rodrigo Duterte’s prohibitions of rallies last year.
Under the accord, the AFP and PNP must also notify the UP administration at the soonest possible time of any arrest of a UP student, faculty or personnel.
The agreement also states that no UP student, faculty or personnel should be subjected to custodial investigation without first informing the UP President or Chancellor and without the presence of a lawyer, Reyes said.
“The UP-DND accord provides safeguards for the rights of the members of the UP community against historically proven rights abuses, such as the case of Donato Continente. That the DND wants the accord terminated tells us it wants a repeat of those abuses,” he warned.
“What happens now? Everything that the accord prohibits, the DND now wants allowed. Yung dating bawal, pwede na. Yung dating safeguards, wala na. That is the implication of the accord’s termination,” Reyes said.
Continente still has to reply to Kodao’s request for comment while UP has yet to issue an official statement on Lorenzana’s letter. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)