Lorenzana tells UP officials: Explain deaths of UP students in military ops vs NPA

Marje Pelayo   •   January 20, 2021   •   550

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expresses the government’s willingness to negotiate over the termination of the 1989 pact with the University of the Philippines (UP) barring state forces from entering university premises.

However, the Defense chief said the University must first explain the number of students being killed in military operations against the New People’s Army (NPA).

“I am open to dialogue with them. Pero sagutin muna nila kung bakit namatay ang mga taong ito kasama ng NPA. This is a list of students of UP from all UP campuses na namatay during the encounters with the Armed Forces,” Lorenzana said referring to a list of UP students who were killed in encounters fighting by the side of the NPA.

“Explain to me bakit nangyari ito sa kanila. Why did they fail to protect this young kids enjoining this organization?” the official added.

Without an acceptable explanation from the UP officials, Lorenzana said there is no reason for dialogue.

“As a parent, I really feel sad na mamatay sila ng ganito. So explain nila iyan. If they can explain that we will talk. If not then forget it,” he added.

Lorenzana said their decision to end the UP-DND pact is not only to protect the students from being lured by the NPA but also to implement equal protection of the law.

The Defense Secretary also stressed that it was not to curtail the students’ right and freedom of expression. 

“We do not suppress legitimate dissent. This morning when you wake up nakakapag tweet kayo. You can form demonstration there. Nobody will touch you,” Lorenzana said.

“Ang ayaw namin ay itong mga nagtatago dyan at nagre-recruit ng mga bata, binibigyan ng baril at makikipaglaban against the government,” he added.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson MGen. Edgard Arevalo said he doesn’t see any violation of the law with the termination of the accord.

The Supreme Court defines academic freedom as the academic institution’s freedom to choose and accept instructors, design their own curriculum and manner of teaching, and who can enroll into the university.

“Academic freedom is enshrined in the Constitution not in this agreement,” Arevalo stressed.

The UP administration is yet to issue a statement on the issue. MNP (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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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