Press Release
February 25, 2021

Speech of Senator Francis Pangilinan at the
Usapang KP (Kalayaan sa Pamantasan) Forum
Mga Abugado at Serbisyo Publiko: Wagas!

25 February 2021

Magandang hapon sa aking co-panelists, Justice Antonio Carpio at Commissioner Grace Pulido-Tan.

Sa mga reactors IBP President and Chairman Domingo Egon Cayosa, Commissioner Luie Guia, and Atty. Michael Tiu.

Sa mga moderators Ms. Malou Mangahas at Atty. Raffy Aquino.

Sa mga kapwa abogado at serbisyo publiko. Sa mga kapwa Isko at Iska. Sa lahat ng nanonood sa Usapang KP, magandang hapon, at happy 35th People Power anniversary to all!

February 25 falling on a Thursday is providential because it suits our Throwback Thursday discussions, or TBT as Frankie and Miel, my teenage daughters, call it.

Everyone in this panel knows what happened thirty-five years ago today.

We also know that every revolution or uprising is borne out of suppression and oppression.

Kung ang panahon ng Hapon noong World War II ang defining moment para mga magulang at lolo't lola natin, then for our generation, it was martial law.

For the millennials and our younger participants here, what would be the defining moment?

Covid? Perhaps. The administration's failure to address Covid? Perhaps. The worst economic crisis since World War II? The worst health crisis in a hundred years? Perhaps. And how do we respond?

The unilateral termination of the DND of its 1989 agreement with UP disallowing the military and police in all its campuses under certain conditions is threatening to bring back an ugly past reminiscent of martial law days.

And no one is convinced of the military officials' statements that it would respect the university's much-valued academic freedom, especially with armed men perhaps going around and beyond our Oval.

Paano na kung may isang diskusyon at debate sa isang klase tungkol sa teorya ng sosyalismo, komunismo, o liberation theology? Aakusahan ba ang propesor ng inciting to sedition?

Paano kung ang isang grupo ng estudyante ay dini-diss ika nga ang administrasyon habang kumakain ng fishballs at ng pritong lumpia? Aarestuhin ba sila? Tatakutin?

Paano na kung may isang stage play ang mga estudyante ng theatre arts tungkol sa rebolusyon at pag-aarmas? At sumisigaw ng ibagsak? Huhulihin ba sila dahil sa illegal possession of firearms? Or inciting to sedition.

Oo, ganyan ka-absurd ang mga ginagawa ng nasa kapangyarihan -- at lalo na sa mga di nila ginagawa sa pag-manage ng pandemya.

The danger is real, given the spate of killings and harassment, arrests and detention of people who have been red-tagged by the military.

During raids, many of those arrested decry how firearms would suddenly turn up inside their homes, offices, or vehicles. Although horrified by these incidents, many Filipinos being Filipinos would come up with the humorous remark that the police and the military have become "plantitos and plantitas" -- meaning experts in planting evidence, including that of drugs. After perfecting the vilification and murder of "addicts" na nanlaban, red-tagging has been quick and easy.

Let us not forget that the abrogation of the decades-old accord came at a time when the tougher Anti-Terrorism Law is being implemented. What followed were pronouncements accusing UP as among the schools that have become breeding grounds of rebels. Or red-tagged as former rebels, captured or killed.

The historical events that have shaped UP as an epicenter of activism remain fresh in the minds of the community. The wounds of martial law that have taken a toll on its best and brightest have yet to heal. This explains the university's strong opposition to the termination of the accord.

Academic freedom

No less than the 1987 Constitution, in Article 14, Section 5 provides that "academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning."

Retired Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza expounded this, saying: "It is essential to the existence of a university as a sanctuary of learning, by giving it the right to determine what to teach, how it shall be taught, who may teach, and who may be admitted to study."

Vicente G. Sinco, the eighth president of UP, has written: "There is but one cause which can write finis to the existence of the University and that is when it can no longer advance the frontiers of knowledge;...when students and professors...grovel in abject obedience to authority; when it submits its judgment to outside directives."

Justice Frankfurter, the most revered US Supreme Court magistrate on the subject of academic freedom, stated: "It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculations, experiment, and creation."

Education Secretary Liling Briones, who hails from our own NCPAG, has in her many years as educator and now as education chief pushed for an "education that truly liberates and promotes critical thinking."

Without academic freedom, students and professors may have reservations about discussing ideas, researching further, investigating, freely taking their learning to new heights -- lest they may be branded terrorists or communists by state agents now freely allowed to roam the campus. This will impede critical thinking and analysis, exploration, and excellence.

I am reminded that some 500 years ago, Galileo was excommunicated for saying that the earth was not the center of the universe. Ignorance is dangerous in that sense.

Because academic freedom is the freedom to think, speak, move, and even dissent. It is a freedom that everyone is entitled to. A freedom that UP allowed its students, activists or not. And a freedom that everyone must enjoy.


The UP-DND Accord worked all these decades because it made sense. Students and professors must feel safe in their beliefs and convictions, and must find the university a safe haven.

Yes, there have been UP students who took up arms, as there have been UP students who have become Presidents of the country, government officials, tycoons, social workers, doctors, artists, inventors. Education, when allowed to flourish, can take people to their dreams -- even unexpected dreams.

I was 19 when Ninoy Aquino was shot in 1983. There were massive protests and students were tear-gassed, truncheoned, and arrested. Tulad ng stereotype ng UP student, naging aktibista ako pagkatapos ng Aquino assassination. That was my defining moment.

I started questioning what was happening around me. I thought eventually, mamumundok ako like the others because it was the only way, at that time, to fight the dictatorship -- I thought. It was a shift too radical from my original dream of becoming like Neil Armstrong, an astronaut -- from the moon to the mountains -- which I thought that time was needed and the only way to serve.

Ibang-iba siguro ang buhay ko ngayon kung hindi ako naging "woke" and [in] UP, and [with] the academic freedom we enjoyed despite the dictatorship's threats to the UP as an institution. According to the Gallup Strengths Finders Test I took some time back, strengths ko raw ang responsibility and belief. We are responsible for what we love. Mahal natin ang Inang Bayan. We value values. Things that were internal and external to me matched.

When the improbable happened -- a dictator would be disposed in a peaceful revolt -- and democracy was restored in 1986, there were debates in the protest movements, in the radical progressive movements for or against armed and parliamentary struggle. I chose to pursue the electoral possibilities that the new democratic space presented and ran in the first local elections since the restoration of democracy in 1988.

Serve the people or STP was how we activists used to sign off our letters. And activism has kept me on this path of serving our country and our people. Sabi nga sa modified UP Naming Mahal, dito maglliingkod sa bayan natin.

Senate and HoR bills

In our pending bill at the Senate and its counterpart measure by Congressman Kit Belmonte at the House, we seek to uphold academic freedom and protect UP and non-UP students and faculty from unreasonable interference or restriction by authorities.

We are pushing to establish all state universities and colleges as "freedom parks" where no permit will be required to organize and hold public assemblies. We also propose to prohibit uniformed personnel from interfering with peaceful protest actions by SUC constituents within their premises.

We also want law enforcers to notify the proper SUC official before serving search or arrest warrants on any SUC student, faculty, or employee, or even an invited participant in any official activity.

The same requirement will be imposed when law enforcers have to "invite" these people for questioning. Warrants have to be served in the presence of members of the SUC police or security force, and at least two faculty members designated by the appropriate SUC official, will be there as witnesses.

Schools should be safe spaces for the students, professors, and personnel. They should feel secure and unafraid. As we guide our children in their education, we should also trust them to do the right thing, stand their ground, and be on the right side of history.

I'm reminded by my father who was concerned about my being a student leader in the time of the dictatorship. And now I know how it feels when Frankie speaks up and posts messages critical of the status quo.

Let me end by sharing a quote from another UP College of Law alumnus, the late Senate President, Liberal Party stalwart, and gentle sage and fighter Jovito Salonga.

In a speech entitled "The Educated Man", he said educated people are those whose "interest is less in knowing who is right but more importantly, in discerning what is right and defending it with all the resources at [their] command."

They have "a deep reverence for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being."

Whenever they talk about good government, they are "prepared and willing to sacrifice [themselves] for it."

They live "a life of relevance to the world in which we live, a sharing in the problems of [their] time and doing whatever [they] can with intelligence and fairness and understanding."

That is what a UP education has given us. This is the effect of academic freedom on education. That is what education everywhere ought to be.

Maraming salamat, at magandang hapon sa kanilang lahat.

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