Some Filipinos found the joint statement of the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense “dry” following the breakfast meeting that occurred in light of the termination of the 1989 UP-DND Accord.
The meeting was initiated by Chairperson Prospero De Vera III of the Commission on Higher Education and was held Thursday at the Veterans Golf Club in Quezon City.
It was the first time that the two parties, represented by UP President Danilo Concepcion and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, met after the accord was abrogated last January 15.
The termination was decided by the defense department without consulting the state university, a co-signatory of the decades-long agreement involving state forces and the academic community.
Lorenzana claimed that UP has supposedly become a recruitment ground for communist rebels and that some of its students are members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Concepcion said that the termination would “sow more confusion and mistrust” between the two parties and that it would have a chilling effect detrimental to academic freedom.
The move also concerned some lawmakers who said that it affects the culture of academic freedom within the state university, which has “produced some of the best and brightest minds” in the country’s history.
Lorenzana eventually agreed to have a dialogue with UP on the condition that the latter will explain the alleged involvement of students in the communist insurgency.
On the same day as the meeting, the two parties released a one-page joint statement that some Filipinos perceived to be lacking in concrete initiatives following the controversial termination.
“The dialogue afforded the key leaders the opportunity to discuss the way forward and possible areas of cooperation on how both institutions can promote their mutual aspirations to ensure a safe and secure environment conducive to learning,” part of it said.
“The parties agreed and look forward to subsequent meetings to continue the dialogue,” it added.
Joint Statement of the Department of National Defense and the University of the Philippines
— University of the Philippines (@upsystem) February 4, 2021
“Points made? None. Just ‘Hi guys had breakfast with Lorenzana and Popoy. Happy Thursday! #foodporn #vsco’ kinda vibe,” a Twitter user commented in response to the statement.
“Namahiya pa kayo, dapat sinabi niyo na rin kung ano ‘yung binreakfast niyo para makabawas ng 1% sa pagka-dry ng statement na ‘to ghorl,” another online user wrote.
“I remember an observation of one author analyzing the Vatican bureaucracy that all letters and statements from bureaucratic institutions have three characteristics: ‘secco, formale, e non dice niente.’ In English: dry, formal, and does not say anything,” tweeted a museum and heritage worker.
“The statement’s lack of substance pointedly indicates the UP admin’s capitulation. Absolutely unsurprising,” another Twitter user commented.
Dr. Elena Pernia, UP’s public affairs chief, in a radio interview said that Lorenzana had realized discussions should have come first before terminating the UP-DND Accord.
“Na-explain [ni] President Danilo Concepcion kung ano ‘yung sentimyento ng unibersidad,” she said to DZMM Teleradyo on Thursday.
“Ang tingin namin it was abrupt at na-realize rin naman ni Secretary Lorenzana na ‘oo nga ‘no, siguro nga dapat before nagawa ‘yung steps niya eh sana nagkaroon ng diskusyon,” Perna added.
DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a separate statement said that the department “expressed its openness to listen to the position of the UP administration” in the meeting that took place.
“We are also hopeful that the members of the UP community will be open to working with us to ensure that our youth do not become victims of those who would lead them down the path of lawlessness and destruction,” he added.
The UP-DND Accord states that the military and police can only enter UP campuses “in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency” or when assistance is requested by university officials.
It was made to protect the autonomy of the university from military intervention, especially in protests where students exercise their constitutional right to free speech as enjoyed in democratic societies.
UP is known for fostering ideals of academic excellence, nationalism and development and progressive thinking. This has made it famous for being centers of student activism and dissent in history.