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Military’s visit to UP village not coordinated – barangay head

A sign that reads “Ang Lupang Ito ay pag-aari ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Bawal Pumasok ang sinumang walang pahintuloy” is up inside the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. The head of Brgy. UP Campus stated that the Armed Forces of the Philippines did not coordinate with them prior to their visit to the area for their Urban Farming Project last January 20, 2021. This is amid the abrogation of the Soto-Enrile accord by the Department of National Defense. (PHOTO/ ALVIN KASIBAN)

 

 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) allegedly did not coordinate with the officials of Barangay UP Campus prior to their recent visit to the area for their Urban Farming Project.

This was disclosed by barangay chairwoman Zenaida Lectura, who said in a statement that she is “appalled” that her barangay “was used for whatever intention of the AFP to justify their presence within our barangay.

” The visit was done at the time the whole University of the Philippines (UP) community was denouncing the defense department’s unilateral abrogation of its accord with the state university that prohibited state forces from entering the campus.

Lectura said that the military’s January 19 “visit to the Urban Farming Project at Pook Amorsolo, Pook Village B and Pook Arboretum was not coordinated with the barangay and they only passed through our office after they were refused entry at the Jacinto Street Portal.”

“Since we were having our regular session at that time, only Kagawad Danilo Arceo went out to meet them. We did not know of their purpose and why members of the media were with them for coverage,” the barangay head said.

Lectura said she reached out to a certain Sergeant Lolo to ask what happened. The latter only asked for an apology “for not coordinating with the barangay before their activity.”

Village project, not AFP’s

In its recent press release, the AFP clarified that their visit was part of their projects “known as ‘Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko’ and ‘Raise To 1 Million Gardens in the NCR,'” which were conducted “in partnership with the Barangay UP Campus” and “with the approval of then UP Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo.”

“Amid the controversies surrounding the abrogation of the 1989 DND-UP accord, the 7th Civil Relations Group of the Civil Relations Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (7CRG, CRSAFP) has been constantly entering barangay UP Campus and the UP Diliman campus itself,” it said.

“During the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from March towards the last quarter of 2020, 7CRG was constantly entering and exiting the UP Diliman premises in military vehicles in complete military uniform through its ‘Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko’ campaign,” it added.

However, Lectura pointed out that it was her barangay that “has maintained” their “Urban Garden Project for a number of years now” and they have been doing it “even before this present administration through the ‘Joy of Urban Farming’ under then vice mayor Joy Belmonte.”

“In fact, last year we have sought approval from the Office of the Chancellor for the continuity of this project at Pook Arboretum and we were given permission until December 2020 subject for renewal/extension,” she added.

Lectura noted that it was only on July 14, 2020 when AFP civil relations head Maj. Celeste Frank Sayson tapped them and said they would conduct their own “operations” in the area.

“Before this, they have sought cooperation from the Sangguniang Barangay for the ‘Raise to One Million Gardens in NCR (National Capital Region)… for which they have donated seedlings for our already existing Urban Gardens,” she added.

Lectura said that the barangay council “maintains that our barangay projects does not [sic] involve the AFP and we welcomed and accepted their donations with the belief that they have only extended relief assistance for humanitarian reasons and as part of their duties as protectors of Filipinos under the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine).”

“I hope that this will put the issue to rest and that Barangay UP Campus will not be used for whatever agenda the AFP has for their ‘visit’ to UP Campus,” she added.

Arceo, for his part, asked for the university’s “understanding and forgiveness” if he offended the university by accompanying the military.

“Being a UP retiree, I have no intention to contradict with the university’s decision and their policy and will surely support and adhere to their advocacy and call for academic freedom and will defend the university against any form of harassment and state terrorism,” he added. (Joseph Pedrajas)

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