Press Release
January 25, 2022

Senator Joel Villanueva
Delivered on 25 January 2022

Mr. President and distinguished colleagues:

We are greatly honored to sponsor Senate Bill No. 2491 under Committee Report No. 508, entitled, "An Act Institutionalizing the 1989 University of the Philippines - Department of National Defense Accord, Amending For This Purpose Republic Act No. 9500, otherwise known as the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, and For Other Purposes."

This measure consolidates Senate Bill No. 2002, filed by Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Migz Zubiri and this representation; Senate Bill No. 2014, filed by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan; and Senate Bill No. 2035, filed by Sen. Leila De Lima.

Mr. President, no less than the Supreme Court has recognized the importance of ensuring peace and security in learning institutions. In G.R. No. 84698 and several other decisions, declared and reiterated the following doctrine:

"Institutions of learning must also meet the implicit or built-in obligation of providing their students with an atmosphere that promotes or assists in attaining its primary undertaking of imparting knowledge. Certainly, no student can absorb the intricacies of physics or higher mathematics or explore the realm of the arts and other sciences when bullets are flying or grenades exploding in the air or where there looms around the school premises a constant threat to life and limb. Necessary, the school must ensure that adequate steps are taken to maintain peace and order within the campus premises and to prevent the breakdown thereof."

Guided by this principle, Mr. President, your Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education has finalized this measure that seeks to institutionalize the 1989 UP-DND accord, which we believe will enhance academic freedom and student protection and promotion of education - all embodied in the 1987 Constitution.

Mr. President, the University of the Philippines system is composed of eight constituent universities located in 17 campuses all over the Philippines - UP Diliman, UP Los Baños, UP Manila, UP Visayas, UP Open University, UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, and UP Cebu - collectively, the country's national university.

The impact and influence of the University of the Philippines in the Philippines cannot be denied. In its 113 years of existence, its community of professionals in various fields of study has made not only the institution but our country, proud of their countless contributions to Philippine development and nation-building. To date, the National University has produced 39 National Scientists, 40 National Artists, 2 National Social Scientists, 7 out of the 16 Presidents of the Republic, 15 Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, and generations of graduates embodying the institution's signature brand of excellence.[1]

Their presence has been felt even more so during this public health emergency, as they take the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response through several of their efforts - among others, the creation of locally produced COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment, sanitation facilities and others. We are also all aware of the heroism of health workers, doctors, nurses, technicians, and staff, including those from the UP Philippine General Hospital. The university has had many other initiatives and undertakings, both seen and unseen, for which our country has greatly benefited.

Mr. President, we believe that the UP community thrives because it has always been a citadel of excellence, a marketplace of ideas, and a vanguard of independent thought. Nonetheless, historically, the institution's students, faculty, and personnel had been targeted for the exercise of their political beliefs. One of the incidences that necessitated the signing of the UP-DND Accord on June 30, 1989, was the abduction of Mr. Donato Continente - a messenger of the UP Collegian - who was abducted inside the UP Diliman campus by the police for the alleged killing of US Army Officer, Col. James Rowe.[2]

Given the antecedent circumstances affecting the dynamics between the University of the Philippines and the unannounced presence of law enforcement agencies on school campuses, the 1989 UP-DND Accord became the agreement by then DND Secretary Fidel V. Ramos and UP President Jose Abueva. The latter described the agreement as a reflection of the "deep understanding between [him and Ramos] about the inalienable rights to freedom, democracy, justice and peace" and concluded "for the good of UP" and the rights of the members of the community.

Indeed, it is unfortunate that the UP-DND Accord was unilaterally abrogated at a critical junction in our history, not only of our country, but of the world as a whole - when suppression of free speech and attacks on our democratic ideals are becoming more and more rampant.

Mr. President, we can ensure that UP continues to enjoy unimpeded and unrestrained academic freedom through the institutionalization of the 1989 UP-DND Accord through its incorporation in Republic Act No. 9500, or the "University of the Philippines Charter of 2008."

This measure requires the following:

1. Prior notification by law enforcement agencies or person/s acting on their behalf must be made to University officials if they intend to conduct operations within the premises of the national university nationwide, including its constituent universities;

2. Law enforcement agencies cannot enter the premises of any UP campus, except in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency, or if determined by the University officials as indispensably necessary in the maintenance of security, peace and order. In such cases, the law enforcement personnel shall be in proper uniform and with proper identification;

3. Service and execution of warrants on any student, faculty, or personnel, regardless of their status of enrollment, engagement, or arrangement, or invited guests or participants in official activities of the University shall be in accordance with the Rules of Court and subject to prior coordination with University officials, as far as practicable;

4. No student, faculty, personnel, or invited guest/s or participants in official school activities shall be subjected to arrest, detention, or custodial investigation without prior notice to University officials. At all times, persons arrested, detained, or under custodial investigation shall have the right to counsel;

5. Law enforcement agencies shall not interfere with the peaceful protest actions by individuals or groups within the premises of the University, and those held outside of its premises by recognized student organizations for which a prior notification have been made by the group to the University officials;

6. The security, police, and firefighting capabilities of each constituent university shall be strengthened to prevent its campuses from being exploited by criminal elements. These campus security groups shall likewise extend the necessary assistance to law enforcement agencies to ensure law and order on the campuses;

7. Lastly, there shall be established a Joint Monitoring Group as well as constituent university-based joint monitoring groups that shall monitor compliance with the provisions of the institutionalized accord. To ascertain that the provisions of this measure shall be upheld, the Joint Monitoring Group shall likewise be tasked with the duty of penning the implementing rules and regulations that will govern the same.

This representation emphasizes that this is not a "Do Not Enter" sign that will bar law enforcement agencies from entering the campus. It is not meant to obstruct justice or deter the solution or prevention of crime. It only lays down the guidelines on the conduct of operations by law enforcement agencies - highlighting the necessity for prior notification and coordination by law enforcement agencies with university officials.

Mr. President, our 1987 Constitution provides that "academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning." It is a dynamic concept, described by Commissioner Adolf Azcuna during the deliberations of our Constitution. We, as members of this august chamber, have the duty to protect academic freedom and to keep it alive.

Maraming salamat po, and God bless us all.



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