The military is getting us stuck in this sticky (non)debate about the University of the Philippines being “special” or not, implying that the Accord grants us special treatment. “What is so special about UP, why can’t military and police troops occupy your campus?” is their absurd and impatient question.
You know what, Generals, first of all, and to quote President Duterte, fuck you.
Second, there is nothing essentially special or exceptional about UP, notwithstanding it being the national university or the premier state university, or whatever elitist illusions people cultivate about this institution.
We need to shift the narrative. Instead of granting exceptionalism to UP on account of that accord, we need to assert the truth about that accord.
It is a mechanism clinched by students engaged in the struggle against fascism and national liberation at one point in our long struggle for freedom and justice.
That accord is a standard that was set to provide enabling conditions for academic freedom to flourish; and for the same to be one of various freedoms to be wielded against oppressors. It was a collective effort of organized students from different universities who made sure that what they did to Donato Continente within the premises of the UP will not happen again here or in any other campus. In a big way, student activists under the banner of the national democratic movement protected UP. That much we owe this movement.
That accord should be SOP for all schools. These unscrupulous elements from the military are alienating us from the tools of freedom that our struggle has already won.
Clearly, this is a hijack of past victories!
Instead of (re)defining what UP is– whether it is “special” or not– we need to emphasize how that accord was not only a product of student power. It was in fact a product of the broad and deep national democratic struggle. All those valiant activists to whom we owe our freedoms, including the freedom to take our freedoms back, they are special people because they took time to understand the wider, larger, bigger meanings of freedom.
They embraced the struggle to get free in the concrete: How does getting free look like when it takes in the struggle of workers for wages, farmers and national minorities for land, of women against violence & abuse and for full political and economic participation, for Filipino migrant labor’s right to employment here and without having to leave their families behind? There are more, but you get the drift.
Those activists taught us how to expand, how to imagine the world with compassion, a sense of mission and commitment, freely, creatively and scientifically. None of our goals end when our personal ambitions shatter. There is a bigger picture to this accord and even to the so-called student power that made it possible.
Let us not make this about UP and its essentialized, even mythical character. But you know what, and this is my third point, it is a national university for something. And we have a clear idea what and whom this University is for. This idea clashes with the interests of the few whom the Duterte junta serves.
So we need to shift the narrative that the president’s junta peddles at this point. Don’t they know and haven’t we known, we are talking about a mass movement against tyranny? It is that sort of tyranny that bows down to higher imperialist powers, and that is why it needs to inflict the worst blows on our people.
* The University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense Accord was signed on June 30, 1989. It prohibits state security forces from entering UP campuses without prior notification to the university administration. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sent a letter to UP dated Jan. 15, 2021, terminating the accord.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.