Criminals and terrorists will benefit from House Bill (HB) 10171 or the University of the Philippines (UP) Security Act, while its students, faculty, residents and business owners will be left unprotected, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Region VI task force spokesperson Flosemer Chris Gonzales said on Monday’s virtual press conference of the NTF-ELCAC.
HB 10171 is unconstitutional and only serves a few people, Gonzales said, believing “the bill, which would prohibit the right of the state to exercise police authority under Article II, Section 5 of the Philippine Constitution, is absurd and will only provide a safe haven for wanted criminals and terrorists” including communist rebels in the guise of academic freedom.
“If we read the contents (provisions) of the bill, it appears winawala ang security ng UP. So very ironic. The title is UP Security Bill pero pagbinasa natin yun laman ay tinatanggalan ng seguridad ng mga taga-UP mismo, lalo na yung mga kabataan yun mga estudyante. Dahil ang nilalaman ng Bill ay all prohibition referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement officers Para bang sinasabi natin pag-pumasok ka sa lahat ng UP campuses, the AFP and PNP officers are at the mercy of the UP administration,” Gonzales emphasized.
“Kapag gumagawa kasi tayo ng batas, ang tanong lagi nating ay who benefits from the law? Etong House Bill 10171, the government will definitely not benefit from this. Etong mga students will not benefit from this. So, who will really benefit from this? The law breakers. Yung mga nagvaviolate ng batas,” he said.
“Ano ngayon ang magiging implication kapag naisabatas ang House Bill 10171. Lahat ng mga nagtatago sa batas, lahat ng mga may warrant, lahat ng mga naghahanap ng safe haven na may ginagawang hindi maganda. Ang gagawin lang nila ay they will just find a place inside a UP campus,” Gonzales said.
He said that the UP campus is vast and not only includes the school buildings but also the residential and business areas. “Now, kapag doon nagkuta sa compound ng UP ang masasamang loob at element, they will have this safe haven, a mantle of protection given by the law, which limits the power of the police and the military to go after them. I think that will prejudice the national security and the welfare of the people,” Gonzales added.
He added that this was also the reason why the Department of National Defense (DND) decided to “abrogate” the UP-DND Accord of 1989.
“This is because the operations of the AFP and PNP as protector of the people should not be hampered by one-sided contract,” Gonzales further explained, citing one of the provisions that limit law enforcement authorities to serve arrest warrant would have an implication that the university would serve as “safe haven” given by “mantle of protection of the law,” which will prejudice the national security and the Filipino people.
He said that the bill will also give CPP-NPA-NDF unhindered access and authority to indoctrinate students and professors and recruit them in their communist terrorist groups (CTGs).
“Former rebels have been telling us time and time again that there is recruitment of students to the ranks of NPA from inside UP campuses. Mahaba ang listahan ng mga taga UP na mga namatay sa encounter, nahuli sa mga encounter sites. Countless lives of our youth have been wasted, because they have been recruited from inside the walls of UP to join the CPP-NPA-NDF. I think this is not what the UP Charter intends. Kasi kung babasahin natin ang charter ng UP, very noble naman ang pagtatag ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, which is to create critical thinkers,” Gonzales stressed.
Gonzales said it seemed that the authors of the bill and the lawmakers who approved its passing, are “trying to amend criminal procedures” and only contradict the power of the state to protect its people.
Most of the contents of the bill are also in the UP-DND Accord of 1989 that was already terminated by the DND.
For Gonzales, what is necessary for all the stakeholders is to address the recruitment of students to join the communist terrorist group using their front organizations invading even the students’ council. What is better for the prosecutor is a law that will prohibit organizations radicalizing the students to join the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Meanwhile, former Executive Vice President of the UP and Special Adviser for the National Task Force on COVID-19 Philippines, Dr. Ted Herbosa said, there is no need to amend the UP Charter or Republic Act 9500, as Academic Freedom has already been included in its provisions.
Herbosa explained that academic freedom is the right of teachers to teach what they want to teach in their classrooms. “Actually, hindi ang mga tao o estudyante ang may academic freedom. Ang may academic freedom ay yung institution. So, lahat ng unibersidad, lahat ng institutions of higher education na under sa Pilipinas ay may academic freedom.”
“Lahat sila ay layag na magdiskusyon ng mga iba’t ibang kaisipan—Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy, Federalism. Pwede nilang idiscuss iyan in the setting of a classroom. Now, kapag lumabas na sila sa kalye. Sino na ngayon ang responsible kapag nasa kalye na? Di ba ang estado?” he said.
He said it is different to discuss protest and dissent inside a classroom, including online learnings as against the protest being done in the streets. “Kapag ito ay formal at lesson, yan ay kasali sa pinoproteksyunan ng estado at ng ating constitution, at ng RA 9500,” he added.
Herbosa claimed that when he was still an EVP of UP and the DND accord was still in place, besides the student recruitment of communist rebels, there was a proliferation of illegal drugs, gambling including underground cockfights, and other criminal activities.
“Kaya agree ako, noong si DND Secretary Lorenzana ay hininto na ang DND accord,” he said.
He also agreed with Prosecutor Gonzales’ statement that the bill is absurd, explaining that Philippine General Hospital is part of the UP campus, which takes care of many of the wounded government troops, will no longer admit them because of the prohibition of the bill.
While Supreme Student Council of the Philippines National External Vice-President Kim Soguilon asked that if the lawmakers are really pushing for academic freedom, why did they not just pass a bill supporting and protecting all students, such as a Magna Carta for Students.