Make UP a ‘Zone of Peace’ under RA 11188
In the matter of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s unilateral abrogation of the 1989 Department of National Defense (DND)-University of the Philippines (UP) accord barring military and police operations in its campuses without prior notification (not permission) to its administration, except in “cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency,” with nothing to be “construed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land,” there is another law of the land—a new law—that may prove relevant and helpful in achieving a fair alternative resolution to this dispute.
Lorenzana’s reason for abrogation is that the accord has allegedly been taken advantage of by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) to recruit into its ranks from among the UP studentry. The context or motivation is to help end the local communist armed conflict, presumably framed by the President’s Executive Order No. 70 for that purpose.
Republic Act No. 11188, the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act, took effect in early 2019. Its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) provide that “All local government units (LGUs) in coordination with the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (IAC-CSAC) shall come up with an initial list of areas and structures that are considered as Zones of Peace.”
RA 11188 defines a Zone of Peace as “a site with sacred, religious, historic, educational, cultural, geographical or environmental importance, which is protected and preserved by its own community. It is not merely a ‘Demilitarized Zone,’ but a sanctuary that operates within ethical principles of nonviolence, free from weapons, acts of violence, injustice and environmental degradation. The recognition of the Zone of Peace expresses commitments on the part of its community, governmental authority and, if appropriate, religious leadership to preserve the peaceful integrity of the designated site. Its custodians, members, participants and visitors exemplify mutual respect and nonviolent behavior while on site, and share their resources for furthering peace and cooperation.”
UP is definitely a site with historic, educational, and cultural importance, and thus should be considered a Zone of Peace under this definition. This recognition needs only to be formalized through an initial list by the concerned LGUs where the various UP campuses are found, such as and especially Quezon City to cover the main Diliman campus, and Manila to cover the Padre Faura campus.
RA 11188 also specifically prohibits as Grave Child Rights Violations (GRCVs) the following acts, among others: (1) attacks on schools; and (2) recruitment, conscription or enlistment of children into governmental forces and other armed groups. Attacks “refer to occupation, shelling or targeting for propaganda of schools…; causing damage to such places, or harm or injury to their personnel; or causing the total or partial physical destruction of such facilities; or disruption of educational activities…” Targeting for propaganda of schools applies to both sides of the armed conflict.
Children refer to persons below 18 years of age. Recruitment “refers to compulsory, forced or voluntary conscription or recruitment of children into the governmental armed force, or forced or voluntary membership into the armed group.” Armed group “refers to an armed non-State actor or non-State entity engaged in armed violence against the State or its governmental forces…” This would certainly include the CPP-NPA.
All told, RA 11188 should be considered in the DND-UP accord abrogation issue, as this law appears to cover key concerns of the two institutions.
Soliman M. Santos Jr. is a judge of the Regional Trial Court of Naga City, Camarines Sur; a long-time human rights and IHL lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar; peace advocate, researcher and writer; author of a number of books; and a UP alumnus (1970-1975).
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