Senator Leila De Lima today filed a bill aimed at protecting the academic freedom of the University of the Philippines (UP).

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2035 aims to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 9500, otherwise known as “The University of the Philippines Charter of 2008” and make the UP-Department of National Defence (UP-DND) Accord of 1989 permanent to protect the academic freedom of the country’s premiere academic institution.

This comes after the Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana decided to unilaterally end the three-decade-old agreement with UP that barred the police and military from entering any of its campuses without notifying school officials. The UP-DND Accord was signed in 1989, during the presidency of Corazon Aquino. Several students during the previous Marcos regime “disappeared” and the investigation into such instances was mishandled by the then dictatorship.

The DND cites the recruitments of communist organizations, such as the NPA, as the reason for breaking the accord. Lorenzana said this was done so they could perform their mandate to protect the youth from CPP-NPA recruitment activities.

According to De Lima “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 added “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.” Camille Trinidad