Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana not only defended the government’s termination of its agreement with the University of the Philippines, he also referenced “Crash Landing On You” (CLOY) and likened the agreement to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Is this a joke?
Last night, news broke out that Lorenzana had written UP authorities to say that the government was terminating the 1989 agreement between the state university and the Department of National Defense (DND), that prohibits police and military forces from operating in UP campuses without notifying the university’s officials. Without citing sources or particular instances, the defense secretary said that “there is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide” by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana used the K-drama TV series 'Crash Landing on You' as a reference in defending DND's move to scrap an agreement that bars any military and police presence inside UP campuses. https://t.co/dfgnG9Lrjrpic.twitter.com/3gPFGqlyld
“Sa UP mayroon silang ala-Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Military can’t enter without coordination. What makes UP so special? Nasa Korean border ba kayo? CLOY is life na ba? We are not your enemies. We are here to protect our people, especially our youth,” he posted in a Tweet.
The requirement for state forces to inform UP officials prior to operating in UP campuses doesn’t make UP “special” nor does it mean that the university has a “Demilitarized Zone.” The Korean Demilitarized Zone demarcates South Korea from North Korea. In CLOY, the DMZ is the frustrating border that kept star-crossed lovers Captain Ri Jeong-Hyuk and Yoon Se-ri apart from each other (it arguably also kept Gu Seung-jun away from Seo Dan, but that’s another conversation).
Unlike the DMZ, which is a physical barrier that separates two warring military armies apart, the accord protects a peaceful school campus from being intruded on by military forces. According to UP professor, journalist and former news writer for the Philippine Collegian Danilo Arao, the accord was written days after Donato Continete, former staff of the campus publication, was abducted and forced to confess to the killing of an American soldier. The signing of the accord was meant to protect its students’ freedom of expression and their right to criticize the government, which is part of their education.
First, ousted House speaker Alan Cayetano planning to start a “BTS” in Congress, now Lorenzana comparing the UP-DND Accord to CLOY? It looks like these government officials are binging too much South Korean media.
Do not worsen the situation by comparing our concern to a K-drama, Mr. Lorenzana. Several students have been put at risk because of the police and military red-tagging them, including those who held a donation drive for healthcare workers in the Philippine General Hospital last year.
Several personalities and political figures objected to the termination of the UP-DND Accord and considered the move as an attempt to threaten students and suppress dissent and freedom of speech. The UP Office of the Student Regent described it as an “attempt to encroach on (the students’) academic freedoms and remove safe spaces from our campuses.” UP President Danilo Concepcion responded to Lorenzana’s letter and said that the unilateral termination of the accord was “totally unnecessary and unwarranted, and may result in worsening rather than improving relations between our institutions.”
Vice President Leni Robredo also objected to the abrogation of the accord and said that scrapping the agreement was meant to “sow fear” and “silence criticism.”
“[The UP-DND Accord’s] aim was not to exempt UP or its community from any law, but to send the clear message that in a democracy, even a fledgling one, law enforcement was conducted following clear rules, within defined limits. That in a democracy, there was no place for relentless war waged across all borders, without oversight or accountability, against any person those in power had decided to brand ‘an enemy.’ The unilateral scrapping of the decades-old Accord sends the opposite message: That under this administration, anyone, anywhere, at any time, is fair game,” Robredo wrote in a statement.
Even before the agreement was terminated, there have been instances when officials and students have expressed concern over it being breached by state forces. Back in 2015, the UP police apprehended six military officials for allegedly doing surveillance during a solidarity camp with the lumads during Manilakbayan. In June 2020, police arrested seven protesters during an indignation rally against the anti-terror law inside UP Cebu, supposedly for breach of social distancing protocols despite the police later transporting the protesters in a cramped vehicle to the police station.
We stand in solidarity with student activists and continue to affirm our support in the fight for democracy and academic freedom. State universities should be free from militarization and should remain as a safe space for learning and critical expression.