COVER STORY

Despite abrogation of UP-DND pact, this 1981 agreement still bars police and military from campuses, former student leaders say

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — As the Defense Department unilaterally moved to terminate a 1989 pact that prohibits the unauthorized entry of police and military personnel in University of the Philippines’ campuses, another deal has consistently been mentioned as its basis — the Soto-Enrile agreement.

In an Oct. 29, 1981 letter, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile told student groups that the police would not enter any campus nationwide unless requested by students or school authorities, and that the military would not interfere in “peaceful student protest actions.” In return, student protesters should notify the police ahead of any demonstration, the letter stated. 

Sonia Soto, who was the League of Filipino Students' chairperson when the deal was forged, recalled how the student activists fought for police-free campuses and the restoration of their rights after the late President Ferdinand Marcos lifted martial law. 

She believes the Soto-Enrile deal still stands, considering that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana only scrapped the agreement with the University of the Philippines. The Soto-Enrile agreement, on the other hand, covers all campuses nationwide, she stressed.

Ito na ‘yung pinagbabatayan ng lahat ng mga pagkilos. Tinanggal 'yung mga police detachments, bumalik ang campus papers, student orgs, student councils,” Soto told CNN Philippines on Tuesday. “Palagay ko, hindi ito damay.”

[Translation: This has served as the basis for all protest actions. The police detachments were removed -- campus papers, student organizations and student councils were restored. I think these were not abrogated as well.]

UP-DND pact different from Soto-Enrile agreement

Lawyer JV Bautista, who was part of the negotiations with Enrile as head of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, agrees that the police and military still could not simply barge into UP or any other school because of the 1981 pact.

“The 1989 agreement with UP and DND (Department of National Defense) has nothing to do with the 1981 agreement between the students and Enrile because the parties are different,” Bautista said.

He said all provisions under the Soto-Enrile agreement should remain in effect, unless the Duterte administration also revokes it. Lorenzana told reporters his department is already looking into terminating other agreements as well, including one with another state university, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, for supposedly being a recruitment den of communist rebels.

In his Jan. 15 letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, Lorenzana said the abrogation was necessary for authorities to fulfill their mandate of protecting the youth against the recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Amy, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by an executive body.

READ: UP accord terminated to protect Filipinos vs 'enemies of the state' – Lorenzana

But DND’s agreement with UP cannot be unilaterally terminated, Bautista said, expecting the premier state university to put up a fight.

The UP community has protested the DND’s action, and has received support from Vice President Leni Robredo and several lawmakers. Concepcion urged the government to rethink its decision, stressing that the university will reject any semblance of militarization in its campuses to prevent any chilling effect on academic freedom.

READ: Reconsider end of DND pact, gov't need not fear academic freedom – UP President

Here are some of the salient provisions of the three-decade-old agreement.

No entry, arrest, search without permission

Under the deal, any police or military operation in any UP campus requires prior notification. The presence of uniformed personnel is allowed only “in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency… or ordinary transit through UP premises.”

Since the agreement mandated UP to manage its own security, police, and firefighting capabilities, policemen and soldiers can only provide assistance when requested. They cannot interfere with peaceful protest actions within university premises.

Authorities should also coordinate with the management before serving search or arrest warrants on any UP student, faculty, employee, or invited participant inside the university. Any arrest made on these members of the UP community anywhere in the country should also be reported to the university’s officials.

The agreement was signed by then UP President Jose Abueva and Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos. In a tweet, UP Professor Danilo Arao said it was the 1989 abduction of Donato Continente, former staffer of campus paper Philippine Collegian, that led to the signing.

Continente was allegedly tortured to confess to the killing of US Army Col. James Nicholas Rowe, but was freed in 2005 after a commuted sentence.

"The signing of the UP-DND accord is meant to stop the military and police from abducting UP constituents like Donato Continente," Arao said. "To terminate the accord is to legalize the deplorable."