De Lima files bill to uphold academic freedom in UP

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has introduced a measure seeking to uphold academic freedom in the University of the Philippines (UP) to ensure that exchange and expression of ideas are free from intimidation from coercive forces of the State within the university premises.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2035 amending for the purpose Republic Act (RA) No. 9500, otherwise known as “The University of the Philippines Charter of 2008.”

“While it is important to protect our national security, it is likewise important to afford our academic institutions the democratic space conducive to free exchange of ideas and critical thinking, which leads to more effective participation in the national conversation,” she said.

“It must be emphasized that nothing in this bill prevents any lawful exercise of the law enforcement powers of the President through the PNP and other civilian law enforcement units, within the bounds of the Constitution and the guidelines of due process,” she added.

In a letter dated Jan. 15, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana informed UP President Danilo Concepcion of the DND’s decision to end the agreement with the university, citing information that communists are supposedly recruiting students inside campuses of the state university.

The agreement, first hatched under the Cory Aquino administration in June 1989, provided that the military and the police were prohibited from entering the premises of any UP campus or its regional units without prior notice to the university’s administration.

“For the DND to abrogate that accord – albeit mistakenly – without considering the issues that led to its creation, is to betray that goal of promoting critical thinking and active citizenry in the guise of preventing recruitment by rebellious forces,” said De Lima.

Notably, De Lima’s SB No. 2035 seeks to enact and make permanent the UP-DND Accord of 1989 to protect the academic freedom of the country’s premiere academic institution.

“The bill provides for guidelines in which our armed forces and law enforcement units may operate within the U.P. campuses and promotes peaceful co-existence with the U.P. Community in protecting the campuses and maintaining peace and order,” she said.

“This bill prohibits military operations within the campuses, except under conditions of lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion, and during civil defense operations upon invitation by U.P. authorities,” she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol stressed that the government must always encourage public discourse as a matter of determining policy to let citizens know that national issues can be resolved without resorting to violence.

“The government policy must always be that free flow of ideas and discourse will dispense the need for violence, rather than ideas against the government of the day are met with state-sponsored violence,” said she. (30)

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