Transcript of Dateline Philippines-ANC Interview of
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
On the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND Accord, and the 75th Anniversary of the Liberal Party
Karmina Constantino: Senator and former UP student council chairman Francis Pangilinan warns government not to mess with UP as he voiced his objection to the termination of the UP-DND Accord. Senator Pangilinan now joins us on the program. Senator, good afternoon. Thanks for joining us today.
Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan: Good afternoon, maraming salamat, thank you for having us.
KC: Alright. I wanna start off with what the Secretary of Defense said in his statement, Senator. He says the agreement has become obsolete, the times and circumstances have changed since the agreement was signed. He says that the institution has become a breeding ground for students and groups that eventually get recruited to fight government. What does this kind of reasoning tell you, Senator?
SFNP: Well, I think that is the archaic ‘Cold War’ mindset. Students throughout history have always been anti-government. That doesn’t necessarily make them communists, but they’ve always been critical. Jose Rizal was a student in Europe– Mariano Ponce, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Antonio Luna, Juan Luna. They were students and they were all critical. And anti-government– I mean the Spanish Colonial rule. So we’re missing, you know, many lessons in history.
Therefore it is unfortunate na ganito ka-narrow ang pagtingin ng ilang mga nasa gobyerno sa mga protesta at mga kilos ng mga estudyante at ginagawang komunista. Di, kung na lahat sila na nagpoprotesta ay komunista di dapat nung panahon nung pagmamartso sa kalye o pagpoprotesta nina Jose Rizal ganun din. ‘Wag kayong magreklamo, ‘wag kayong magprotesta, ‘wag niyong panawagan magbago ang pagbabago sa lipunan. ‘Di magkakaroon ng rebolusyon noong 1896 kung hindi naging kritikal at naging anti-government sina Jose Rizal. Dapat ganoon ang tingin natin dito. Nakakalungkot. Nakakalungkot.
KC: I don’t know if you caught our interview with Sonia Sotto just a few minutes ago but you, as well, you were chairperson — the chairperson of the student council in UP then. How important was it for you to be able to voice your dissent, to be able to have critical thought, to have that freedom to exercise critical thought at that time you were a student activist, Senator?
SFNP: Alam mo, simple lang, eh. You know you’re there to learn, di ba? You’re there to solve problems. Araw-araw na ginawa ng Diyos, di ba? Every midterms, every finals– ang mga estudyante solusyon ang hinahanap sa mga problema. Kaya dapat hayaan na manatiling kritikal ang ating mga kabataan at hayaan silang magkaroon ng academic freedom. Dahil mahirap naman na naghahanap ka ng solusyon tapos yung solusyon na nais mong banggitin o sabihin eh sasabihin sa‘yo “Hindi puwede ‘yan, hindi puwede ‘yan. ‘Wag ka nang mag-isip. Tatakutin ka namin pag naghanap [ng solusyon]– kung mali yung sagot mo. Kung hindi– kung yung sasagutin mo, eh, hindi sang-ayon sa amin, ay bagsak ka o…” Di ba? Hindi! Critical thinking is key, academic freedom is key, if we are to learn. We should not be made to accept, di ba? That preset na, “’Wag na kayong mag-isip. ‘Wag na kayong magtanong. ‘Wag na kayong maging kritikal.” Hindi tama yan. Hindi na tayo matututo. Hindi natin mahahanapan ng solusyon ang mga problema kung ang pinipuwersa sa atin, eh, “‘Wag maging kritikal. ‘Wag nang magsalita. ‘Wag bumatikos.” Hindi tama.
KC: Well, the UP President, Danny Concepcion, has since appealed for the DND to reconsider and revoke what he called the abrogation of the agreement. We don’t know if the DND will actually listen but tell us though, is this just about UP or this is about something greater than the institution?
SFNP: I thought [about] what Sonia said earlier. You know the 1982 Enrile-Soto Accord was the government, a dictatorship, negotiating and signing an agreement with students. Why? Because they realized na– they could not suppress student unrest with more– with arrests and harassment. They have to sign that accord so that the protests and the boycotts would stop. And, therefore, we have to learn the lessons [from] the past. It’s like saying, “O, from now on, ‘wag ka nang bumatikos. ‘Wag ka nang anti-government. Matuto ka na. Maging pro-government ka na.” Hindi ganon ang kabataan. Hindi ganon ang estudyante sa kasaysayan ng anumang lipunan. Let us learn from history. The more you suppress, the more they will fight! And, you know, suppression and authoritarian rule and military rule has proven to be, you know, incapable of solving major problems in the country. Nung nag Martial Law nung 1972 karampot lang, iilan lang ang komunista. Pagdating noong 1986, bago napatalsik yung diktadura twenty-five thousand [25,000] na ang mga armed regulars ng NPA. Lalong dumami because of suppression, because of abuses, and because of authoritarian militaristic rule.
So ang panawagan natin sa DND, I share the concern raised by President Concepcion. Let’s hold dialogues. Pag-usapan natin because the accord, the DND-UP Accord, provided certain responsibilities on the part of the campus of the university and responsibilities and obligations on the part of the police and the Armed Forces. Ang tanong: may violation ba? Kasi kung walang violation bakit tinerminate? Ano ang basehan nung termination? Dahil naisip nila? Dahil may nagsumbong sa kanila? Bakit hindi kinausap yung, uh, administrasyon ng UP. Ba’t bigla na lang na-revoke at tinerminate. It’s– it’s a mutually, it was a mutually agreed upon accord. Both parties sat down and respected each other and then [held a] dialogue– and then came up with this agreement. So if you want to terminate it let us look back at the agreement and what were the violations.
KC: Here’s a problem though, Mr. Senator. Because it seems like when you read the statement of DND, they’re looking at it from an absolutely different perspective. Let me read to you what the Secretary of Defense said. He said, “the Department of National Defense will neither renege nor shirk on its duty to protect the rights of the majority. It will not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land and in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly and free speech”. He equates it to protecting the majority of the Filipino. In fact, he said, it is a sworn duty to protect the Filipino people.
SFNP: And I agree with them that it is the sworn duty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, of the law enforcement agencies to do that. But we have a process to be able to achieve that. We want them to be able to protect our citizens, definitely. But, you know, ano yung naging basehan nung pag-terminate. Kung merong violation dapat– ano ba’ng hinihingi– ano ba yung nakalagay dun sa DND-UP Agreement? Di naman pupuwedeng hindi kayo puwede pumasok, of course not. You can go into the campus, you can actually arrest, you know, law-breakers if it’s in hot pursuit. Ibig sabihin you don’t have to ask permission kung talagang tinutugis ninyo at i-aaresto yung when a crime is being committed. Wala nang notification ‘yan. Pero sinasabi lang nung accord, “kung papasok kayo, kung maari i-notify kami.” Hindi naman sinasabing–
KC: (crosstalk) It’s courtesy.
SFNP: Yes! And there’s no, you know– and what’s wrong with that, di ba? Kung papasok ka sa isang opisina, di ba, dahil may aarestuhin ka– di ba may warrant of arrest naman et cetera, eh di okay lang walang problema yun eh. Hindi naman sila pinipigil pumasok. Banggitin lang sa kanila, sabihan lang sila na papasok sila. And then– and, uh, how many times have they refused? If at all? I don’t think it’s ever, you know, it’s ever been violated.
KC: What is your fear, Senator? Last question on this topic. What is your fear that this has been done. Moving forward, is there anything that concerns you more now that the agreement has been abrogated?
SFNP: Well first, I hope, magkaroon ng dialogue. Baka sakaling maisasalba pa. Of course my other concern is: this a divisive issue. We have yet to address Covid and its spread. We are still discussing issues about the most effective vaccine and the roll-out. The economy is in doldrums. Millions are hungry because we have not been able to manage the spread of the disease, uh, effectively compared to Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore. Sana yun ang tutukan natin. ‘Yon ang pangunahing problema ng ating mga kababayan. Gutom, trabaho, kita. At lahat apektado dahil hindi natin matulungan nang maayos at kasing-ayos ng ibang mga bansa– itong Covid at pagkalat nito.
KC: I wanna shift gears now and talk about the Liberal Party. The party is celebrating its seventy-fifth year. I wanna ask you, how has the party evolved since it was founded in 1946?
SFNP: Well, uh, sabi ko nga, a huge part of the history of the party is, you know, connected to or, uh, intertwined with the history of the country. We’ve had four presidents from our ranks. We were there, the Liberal Party was nearly decimated because of the Plaza Miranda bombing of 1971. In 1972, during the Marcos Regime, hundreds of our supporters and members were jailed and harassed. Ninoy Aquino was Secretary General of the party when Marcos declared martial law– was arrested and jailed and eventually he was assassinated. Many of our members of the party suffered with the Marcos Regime. After the Marcos Regime, under the Cory Administration, the LP-led Senate, fought for our sovereignty by rejecting the US-RP Bases Agreement under the leadership of our president then of the party, Senate President Salonga. And we have continued to provide leadership and we have continued to face the challenges of governance in the country. So on our seventy-fifth year we are still around. Di tayo magpapatinag. Hindi lahat ng panahon naman, eh, mananalo ang partido at kapag natalo maraming natutunan na mga leksyon sa pagkatalo na dapat sariwain at kilalanin para bumalik sa taong bayan at muling kumbinsehin ang ating mga kababayan. And that’s what we’ve been doing in the last three years since I was party president. We have gone back to our citizens. In fact we are still building a genuine people’s party. We have chapters that we have established– over a hundred, uh, chapters being established in the last three years of, uh, ordinary citizens.
KC: Senator, I wanna get into that right now because in 2016, you were talking about the challenges. In 2016, when the LP’s presidential bet, Mar Roxas, lost to then-candidate Duterte. Observers then have said that that defeat exposed the greatest flaw of the party. That after all these years in power, the party failed to recognize what majority of the people really wanted, really needed at that time. So as we move closer to 2022…
SFNP: I don’t think–
KC: [Crosstalk] Let me just finish. As we move closer to 2022, how does the LP see itself regaining the trust of the people, Senator?
SFNP: Well, first, I don’t think the LP was outrightly rejected in 2016. Our vice president won, seven of the twelve senators who ran aligned with LP won, and one hundred fifteen members of Congress won as LP. Of course, they all jumped– many of them jumped ship after, but if it was really a rejection by the citizens then it would’ve been more like the Arroyo Administration in 2010. They could not even come up with a Senate ticket. Their presidential and vice-presidential candidates lost. That was a rejection. So– so I’d like to correct that misimpression and, yes, our standard bearer lost, and– and that has awakened our eyes that kulang, kulang. I’m not saying we won outright, obviously not. Kulang ang ating naging mga kilos kaya nga from 2016 onwards we went back to the citizens. We consulted, we listened to them, we– in fact, prior to the 2019 elections we came up with a listening campaign. We visited a hundred-sixty thousand [160,000] households and had a, uh, dialogue with them, face-to-face. We would actually have a second, uh, listening campaign after the election– I mean prior to Covid but, uh, because of Covid nga nahihirapan tayo but we continue to go back to our voters and listen to them and help organize our citizens. May mga pagkukulang, wala namang partidong perpekto but the important thing is let’s learn from our shortcomings and then move forward because in the end, you know, we only have one country. And there are challenges that we face today and the Liberal Party has been around for the past seventy-five years. It will continue to be around for as long as, you know, governance and challenges of governance is there. Nariyan tayo maghahanap ng mga solusyon. We have been demonized, obviously, so much fake news. I am being subjected to fake news every day. I am being insulted. I am being threatened. Even my daughter is being threatened on social media because of paid trolls but, you know, if we keep quiet– if we get intimidated– because they want to keep us quiet and they want to silence us. We will not allow that. We will fight as best we can, given what we have because we want our democracy to be strengthened and we want the basic fundamental rights of our people addressed.
KC: Liberal party chairman, Senator Francis Pangilinan. Always a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for joining us today. Keep safe.
SFNP: Thank you! Maraming salamat at magandang araw sa kanilang lahat.