U.P. Vanguard Statement: Call for a Genuine and Transparent Dialogue

The U.P. Vanguard Inc.[1] joins the whole University of the Philippines (UP) community in expressing its grave concern on the unilateral abrogation by the Department of National Defense (DND) of the 1989 Agreement with UP.

As an alumni organization of the U.P. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (UP ROTC), we have often been accused by left-leaning organizations and activists of being pro-military or pro-militarization. But one thing we have learned and cherished since our cadet and University days is that we have learned to live with each other in a thriving environment of learning and critical-thinking, where ideas are continuously challenged. All of this within the ambit of the law and as guaranteed by our academic freedom.

We live by our shibboleths: Duty, Honor, Country.

Duty. It is our duty to stand by the very same institution which molded our minds, hearts and souls into individuals presently engaged in nation-building in various capacities.

The 1989 Agreement is about mutual respect between UP and the DND, both being government institutions which are partners in nation-building.

Contrary to the information that is being peddled, the Agreement does not make UP untouchable; it is not beyond the reach of the law. As a matter of fact, the Agreement provides that “U.P. officials shall extend the necessary assistance in the enforcement of the law within the U.P. premises” whenever “requested by law enforcers.”

The Agreement merely guarantees coordination, cooperation and transparency, which are fairly expected between partners.

Honor. UP has always been a bastion of freedom – to think, act, learn, question, and even make mistakes – all within the bounds of law as we all operate in a place governed by laws. But UP has guaranteed a safer space to learn and develop critical thinking for its constituents allowing, for example, peaceful protests within its premises, which is essential for critical thinking and learning apart from our guaranteed civil rights. In short, UP protects critical thinkers – without fear of being persecuted for what they believe in as long as they act within the bounds of the law.

Country. Critical thinkers are important in fueling a nation in dire need of changes and innovation. We must support a constituency of thinkers and doers. We all owe it to our country to offer the best solutions to the complex problems we are facing. It must always be emphasized that divergence of opinion is always healthy in a thriving democracy. And UP not only guarantees the space, it also develops these minds.

The 1989 Agreement itself provides for a mechanism of monitoring and collaboration should there be issues regarding it.

As critical thinkers, we, therefore, ask these questions:

  1. Has the security sector coordinated with UP within the ambit of the Agreement to address its concerns, particularly on addressing alleged lawless elements within its premises?
  • Has the security sector raised its concerns citing actual operations that might have been barred by the Agreement?
  • Has the security sector given the proper respect to a fellow government institution involved in nation-building to discuss the concerns regarding the Agreement before unilaterally abrogating it?

We urge the DND to reconsider its unilateral abrogation and respect UP’s role in our society. Furthermore, we urge both parties to continue its mutual partnership and respect by discussing matters and agreeing to the best course of action, as necessary. If needed, the U.P. Vanguard offers its good offices to make this genuine and transparent dialogue happen. All for Duty, Honor and Country!

[1] The U.P. Vanguard is the organization of graduates of the University of the Philippines’ Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (UP ROTC). It has had a long history of partnership in nation building and has produced some of the top individuals in the military, government, and the private sector.

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