Raise High the Barricades*
We, alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman’s official student publication Philippine Collegian, oppose the move of the Department of National Defense (DND) to unilaterally end the 1989 UP-DND Accord.
The UP-DND Accord is a historic pact. This agreement is the by-product of the important work of student activists, who, alongside the diverse but concerted resistance of various sectors, moved history forward and freed us from the Marcos dictatorship. The accord has helped maintain the University’s atmosphere of academic freedom, birthing decades of critical and urgent interrogation regarding the issues of our time.
The UP-DND Accord is material evidence that state forces recognize the grave abuses they have committed and are willing to make reparations to the University and its constituents. It underlines the imperative that the University remain a safe haven. Our freedom, whether as an atmosphere or practice, is sacrosanct.
It is this very history that is being threatened today. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in ending the agreement, achieves three things:
- He opens the gates for further harassment and suppression, in a time when the military and police have enjoyed unprecedented resources and impunity. This is bolstered by the new Anti-Terrorism Law, the most contested in recent memory;
- By attacking a University which has become a symbol of freedom and dissent, he continues the Duterte administration’s erosion of our hard-won democratic spaces. This sends a chilling message to other campuses and institutions that serve as hotbeds of independent and critical thinking; and
- With a single poorly-worded letter, the DND creates another uproar that divides national attention, diverting our focus and energies from key issues like COVID-19 vaccination, worsening poverty and hunger, Charter Change, massive corruption and human rights violations, among others.
As alumni of the Philippine Collegian, we are gravely aware of the implications of the DND’s actions. Activists, student formations, and media are among the most vocal critics of any corrupt regime. During the Marcos dictatorship, publications and student formations like ours were shut down, and our editors were imprisoned. In 1989, under the Aquino administration, one of our staff was abducted by the military right outside the Collegian office. He was tortured and made to confess for a murder he did not commit. This very incident was the tipping point which gave rise to the UP-DND Accord.
The practice of campus journalism taught us to observe meticulously, analyze sharply, and choose carefully which side of history we will advance. We must read between the lines. We must see through the smokescreens. And in times like these when democracy is darkest, we must pool our courage and continue to pursue truth and justice. The words of a fallen Collegian editor continue to remind us: Kung di tayo kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?
Defend academic freedom! Fight tyranny and its strategies of distraction! Uphold the UP-DND Accord! ◼
*Title of a February 4, 1971 Collegian editorial on the Diliman Commune, under the editorship of Antonio Tagamolila.
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