Duterte backs Lorenzana ending accord with UP; alumni air side

Marje Pelayo   •   January 19, 2021   •   240

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte supports the decision of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to terminate the decades-long agreement with the University of the Philippines (UP) prohibiting the entry of state forces inside its campuses without prior coordination with the school administration.

“Si Sec. Lorenzana is an alter ego of the President. Of course, the President supports the decision of Sec. Lorenzana,” Roque said.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government welcomes any appeal to reconsider the decision. However, it will depend on how UP President Danilo Concepcion justifies the matter.

Meanwhile, a group of students in UP Diliman campus staged an indignation rally on Tuesday (January 19) to condemn the Department of National Defense’s (DND) decision to end the accord.

Among those who joined the protest were members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, students and members of AnakBayan.

The group claims such a decision is a clear suppression of their rights and freedom.

“Nangangamba po kami kapag na-abrogate itong UP DND Accord ay mas mawala ang proteksyon ng aming campus para pasukin ng mga militar at pulis at magkaroon sila ng mga operasyon sa loob, at siguro arestuhin kung anuman gawin nila sa aming mga estudyante sa loob,” said UP student Vincent Empal.

“Nandoon nga po ang pagtutol dahil siempre gusto po natin ng espasyo na malaya tayong makipagtalakayan, malaya tayong mag manifest ng ating kritisismo,” said Esmer Dansel, also a UP student.

Meanwhile, UP Diliman student Council Chairperson Froilan Cariaga claims many times that the state forces did violate the provisions of the accord such as the arrest of 8 students in UP-Cebu while in a demonstration inside campus.

Some alumni also expressed their side on the issue.

Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero said the DND is ‘barking at the wrong tree’ with its decision and that the government should learn to ‘fight a good fight.’

Former UP professor Danilo Arao, for his part, challenged his fellow alumni and colleagues who are members of the Duterte Administration to condemn the termination of the agreement.

Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, slammed the DND for unilaterally terminating the 1989 agreement and claimed it was meant to “sow fear” and “silence criticism.

“Clearly, then, this is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism,” Robredo said.

Despite the outrage, Lorenzana maintains that the decision to end the UP-DND accord of 1989 aims to carry out the state security forces’ mandate of protecting UP students and the general public from the influence of the ‘enemies of the state’ particularly the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Defense Sec. Lorenzana says he won’t receive Sinovac COVID-19 jabs

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said he will not be administered with CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine made by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech, as the Philippines rolls out its vaccination drive on Monday.

In a post on Twitter, Lorenzana said he volunteered to be among the first to receive the vaccine in the Department of National Defense (DND) “to lead by example to not cast doubt against Sinovac,” and to “hopefully bring confidence” among its personnel.

However, he was advised that he was not qualified to take the vaccine based on Sinovac’s age limit, which is 18 to 59.

Lorenzana is 72 years old.

The DND started Monday the inoculation of its personnel against COVID-19. Lorenzana and other officials witnessed the vaccination rollout at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City.

The Defense chief said the DND has been allocated with 100,000 vaccine doses – 29,040 of these jabs are allotted for health workers of the VMMC and V. Luna Medical Center, military and civilian staff of the DND-Proper. The remaining doses will be given to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government arrived in the country on Sunday. The vaccines were welcomed by President Rodrigo Duterte and other Cabinet officials at the Villamore Airbase in Pasay City. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DILG, UP agree to thoroughly review 1992 pact

Robie de Guzman   •   February 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and officials of the University of the Philippines (UP) have agreed to undertake a ‘thorough’ review of their 1992 agreement, which requires police to coordinate with the school’s administration before entering UP campuses.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, the DILG, UP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) expressed the parties’ mutual commitment to review the 28-year old deal “to better address peace and security inside UP campuses without curtailing academic freedom and right to free speech and assembly.”

DILG officer-in-charge, Undersecretary Bernardo Florece, Jr. said the meeting with UP officials was a welcome development as both parties have agreed that there is a need to revisit the agreement to update it to present times.

“Our meeting with UP officials led by President Danilo Concepcion and UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo is a good start since both sides agree that both our agencies only have the best interests of the UP community in mind. Kami po sa DILG ay lubhang nagagalak sa development na ito,” Florece said.

The meeting, which was held at the PNP National Headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, was attended by Florece, DILG Usec. Jonathan Malaya and Asec. Manny Felix, PLtGen Joselito Veracruz, QCPD Director PBGen Danilo Macerin, UP President Concepcion, UP VP Elena Pernia, UPD Chancellor Nemenzo, UPD Vice Chancellor Aleli Bawagan, and Director John Baroña.

“We would like to make it of record that UP is committed to honor and enforce the Accord. If the Accord needs to be updated, we are prepared to sit down with the DILG and PNP to dialogue and to come up with another one that will reflect what is happening on the ground,” UP President Concepcion said during the meeting with DILG and PNP officials.

“Maraming salamat sa DILG at PNP at asahan ninyo ang aming pakikipagtulungan para lahat po ng issues ay ating malapatan ng lunas,” he added.

Florece said the agreement will be reviewed with the assurance that it will not, in any way, diminish basic rights and the freedom of speech and assembly in UP which are Constitutionally protected and enshrined.

“Sa bahagi ng DILG, may mga ilan po tayong mga nakita na maaari nating baguhin sa 1992 Agreement upang lalo pang mapangalagaan ang ating mga Isko at Iska sa UP. Kaya naman kami ay umaasa nang malalimang pakiisa ng UP tungo sa hangaring ito,” he said.

“Ang DILG po ay kakampi ng UP at ng lahat ng unibersidad sa pagpapanatili ng kapayapaan at kaayusan sa loob ng kanilang mga paaralan,” he added.

The creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of representatives of both parties was suggested by the DILG. The TWG will undertake the review of the agreement and recommend whether to simply amend the 1992 agreement or come up with an entirely new agreement.

“UP and DILG have a common purpose which is to the peace and security of all UP campuses. These propositions are not placed to put a wall between us but to unite both our organizations to achieve our common goals,” he said.

The proposed review of the 1992 deal between the DILG and UP comes after the Department of National Defense unilaterally abrogated its 1989 pact with the UP, citing information that the New People’s Army is recruiting students inside UP campuses.

The 1992 UP-DILG agreement was signed by then UP President Jose Abueva and then DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III after the enactment of Republic Act No. 6975 which effectively transferred the country’s police force from the DND to the DILG.

Since the police was transferred from the DND to the DILG in 1991, both parties signed the UP-DILG Agreement in 1992 with essentially the same contents as the 1989 UP-DND agreement.

Under both agreements, prior notification shall be given by a commander of an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or PNP unit intending to conduct any military or police operations in any of the UP campuses.

They shall not also be allowed to enter the premises of the campuses without coordination with UP administration except in hot pursuit cases and similar occasions of emergency, or in ordinary transit through UP premises.

COVID-19 surge in Cebu possibly caused by holiday surge, UK variant—UP OCTA Research

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The University of the Philippines (UP) OCTA Research is looking into the surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Cebu.

Dr. Guido David of the OCTA Research Team said the surge of COVID-19 cases in the province could be due to a post-holiday surge or the presence of the UK variant.

Based on their report, David said Cebu province has an increased average of 147 daily confirmed cases this month. This is higher compared to the previous 114 average cases from December 17 to 23.

The reproduction number in Cebu also reached 1.57 which is higher than the country’s reproduction number of 0.96.

“Cebu has an international airport. I think they were open to tourists, same thing with Iloilo, Island of Panay. We’re going to look at passengers who travelled to Cebu from outside the Philippines from October to December for example. We can estimate the probability based on the rate of increase,” he said.

Another possible cause that David’s team is considering is the likely presence of the new COVID-19 variant in Cebu.

“One possibility we think of is the UK COVID-19 variant. In fact, we have that in Mt. Province. Maybe there’s something going on because they had mini surges before but they were able to control it,” David added.

UP OCTA Research projects 400 daily COVID-19 cases in Cebu City in two weeks time.

The Department of Health (DOH) acknowledged the projection of the research team, however, the health department does not agree with the claim that the UK variant has reached the province of Cebu without concrete evidence to support it.

“Mahirap tayong magsabi ng mga factors kung bakit tumataas at masasabi pa natin na baka variant iyan hanggang hindi tayo sigurado kasi this might cause panic sa mga tao, DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Meanwhile, the DOH reminds the public to continue observing health protocols especially amid the threat of the UK COVID-19 variant in the country. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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