The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) and organizations from the Ateneo de Manila School of Law community express grave concern over the unilateral termination of the 1989 University of the Philippines – Department of National Defense (UP-DND) Accord. The DND unilaterally abrogated the 1989 UP-DND Accord effective on January 15, 2021, on the premise of claims of clandestine communist recruitment in campuses.
The 1989 UP-DND Accord is an agreement between the said institutions to regulate the entry and presence of the police and military in UP campuses. Premised on the “establishment of our democracy and the goal of building a peaceful, just, and human society as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution” following the widespread human rights violations committed during martial law, it expressly prohibits the police and military to enter the premises of any of UP campuses or regional units except in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency upon the request of UP officials.
The Agreement actually guarantees nothing else but the respect to an academic institution’s role of developing critical thinkers. A place to learn ideas and take on positions that may even be seen as controversial – as long as they are within the bounds of the law. This is the reason why the Agreement proscribes any interference by the police and military “with peaceful protest actions by UP constituents within UP premises” since not only is this part of our cherished freedom of speech, expression and the right to peaceably assemble, it is also part and parcel of the free market of ideas.
Considering the current national political climate, public health emergency, passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and petitions to the government for redress of grievances, the unilateral termination of the 1989 UP-DND Accord adds to the ongoing threat to freedom of speech, expression, and the right to peaceably assemble. As the threat further creeps within the boundaries of the academe, it also endangers academic freedom. It causes a chilling effect on the free exercises of guaranteed rights not only in UP campuses, but also in many other academic institutions in the country.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution. provides that “academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.” Jurisprudence further provides that “institutional academic freedom includes the 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.” Academic freedom fosters truth-seeking and critical thinking, and is integral to the respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights, as well as to democracy and national development.
In view of the foregoing, we call on the government and the security sector to maintain schools as zones of peace and to foster enabling environments in the academe that are conducive to learning and critical thinking by upholding academic freedom and respect for human rights in a democracy.