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UP Campus a ‘crime hotspot’—PNP

AMID the Department of National Defense’s (DND) unilateral decision to terminate its security accord with the University of the Philippines (UP) way back in 1989 amid its claim that the pact has turned the state university into a haven of New People’s Army recruitment, the Philippine National Police (PNP) had said that Barangay UP Campus in Diliman, Quezon City has turned into a ‘crime hotspot’ which needs police action to further protect the UP community and other local residents.

Citing records from the PNP National Crime Information Reporting and Analysis System, PNP spokesperson, Brigadier General Ildebrandi N. Usana said that Bgy. UP Campus actually ranked 20th among the 142 Q.C. barangays that have been in the ‘peace and order indicator’ of the Q.C. since 2016.

This, he said is the reason why they are asking the UP community to be more open in cooperating with the national police force in addressing criminality in the area without asking prior permission from UP officials.

“We aspire to accomplish our interest to help address the prevalence of crime in the premier state university of the country. It must be devoid of any threats posed by criminals and lawless elements,” the PNP spokesman said.

Brig. Gen. Usana said that police have noted a consistent presence of non-index crimes in the said barangay although there has been a recorded significant drop in its index crimes.

From 2016 to 2020, the PNP registered 250 drug-related offenses, 106 theft incidents; 72 robbery cases, 36 incidents of physical injuries, 21 cases of rape, 14 murder incidents, 23 cases of car theft and two incidents of robbery with homicide in Bgy. UP Campus.

On the other hand, the non-index crimes recorded in the same barangay were illegal gambling (72 incidents), malicious mischief (21), violence against women and their children (43), direct assault (four),) estafa (13), child abuse (43), public health violations (11) and obstruction of justice (two).

The cases do not necessarily involve UP students and personnel but residents of Bgy. UP Campus which sits within the 493-hectare UP Diliman Property along with Barangays Botocan, Krus na Ligas, San Vicente, Culiat, Old Capitol Site, Pansol and Vasra.

Usana also said the Commission on Higher Education had also “noted the ‘prevalence of the drug problem’ in the university campus and its police force’s inability to address crime and public safety issues taking place in their jurisdiction.

The 42-strong UP Police and at least 240 private security guards have the sole responsibility of maintaining peace and order inside the UP Diliman Campus.

The PNP leadership headed by General Debold M. Sinas had expressed its full support to the DND decision to scrap the pact.

“The agreement between the DND and UP that limits police and military presence in all its campuses nationwide did not serve the best interest of public order and security in all 30 years that the accord was in effect,” said Sinas.

According to the top cop, “the PNP seeks to build stronger collaboration among stakeholders to protect campuses against criminal activities, drug syndicates, and shadowy organizations that promote and espouse Local Communist Armed Conflict against government thru force and violence.”

“The PNP wishes to state that the termination of the agreement does not diminish our mandate to uphold the law at all times. Any abuse or criminal behavior committed by men in uniform shall be dealt with accordingly,” Sinas emphasized.

Panelo defended DND move

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo said “the agreement between the DND and UP executed in 1989 which requires prior notification before law enforcement agents can enter the latter’s campuses cannot supplant the Constitution and laws of the land.”

“While parties in a contract can stipulate terms and conditions as they deem mutually acceptable, the same cannot — and must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy. That legal principle is basic,” the veteran lawyer said.

According to Sec. Panelo, “National security requires that the law enforcement and the military, as enforcers of law and the protector of the people, respectively, cannot be impeded or derailed in the exercise of this constitutional duty.”

“Logic dictates that giving prior notice to UP before conducting lawful operations and serving warrants impedes law enforcement. The termination of the agreement does not violate academic freedom. With or without it, UP remains to be the sole authority of what courses to teach and the manner by which the same is taught. It decides who the faculty members will be,” he added.

Panelo maintained that “the freedom of expression and of speech is not abridged. Nor is the right to peaceably assemble prohibited. Neither does the abrogation proscribe or stop the faculty and students of UP from thinking freely on any subject. With or without the DND-UP accord, and governments will come and go, UP will always be citadel of freedom,” he stressed.

In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion last January 15, DND Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said they have unilaterally terminated a 1989 agreement with the UP requiring prior notification to school officials for police and military to enter UP campuses.

The move however does not mean that security forces will be permanently stationed inside the UP campus to conduct counter-insurgency operations.

According to Lorenzana, the agreement had been a hindrance to operations against communist rebels, especially recruitment of cadres in UP whose prominent students include self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.

With the DND decision, police and military agents can now freely enter UP without asking clearance from the UP police and management. However, Lorenzana said the Armed Forces does not intend to put up military or police outposts inside UP campuses “nor suppress activist groups, academic freedom and freedom of expression.”