By Arianne Christian Tapao and Mikhaela Dimpas
Last Wednesday afternoon, Political Science professor Dr. Perlita Frago-Marasigan was reportedly attacked and robbed at the Palma Hall (AS) parking lot. Initial reports said she was handcuffed and driven around the campus by still unidentified men before taking her possessions and leaving her in broad daylight.
Though she managed to report the incident to the police, this security lapse has raised more questions on safety around the campus, especially when similar incidents have recently taken place inside the national university.
Lordei Camille Hina, a fourth year Political Science student, can be remembered as the casualty of a robbery in Vinzons Hall in 2012. She was stabbed in the head Feb. 1 while she was in the University Student Council (USC) office, which sent her into a coma.
Hina is still on the road towards full recovery as of this writing.
Suspect Dan Mar Vicencio was captured by authorities, but his alleged partner Carlo Pecayo remains at large.
Hina’s incident brought the call for reforms on safety policies at the forefront. But one year later, the assurance of safety within and near campus grounds still hangs for members of the UP community.
Marlyn Sudario, herself a security guard of the all-female Sampaguita Dormitory, fell victim to an attempted rape case while on duty last June 27.
When she tried to fight back, suspect Pedrito Ravelo stabbed her in the neck and head. Sudario has since recovered from the attack.
Had it not been for the assigned security personnel in the nearby Institute of Biology pavilion, it could have been too late for the 41-year-old Sudario, who was attacked around 3 a.m.
Explosives have also caused a scare in the University. Quezon City Police reported that on Jan. 28, a pillbox exploded near Palma Hall Annex, causing injuries to two on-site maintenance workers.
These incidents are only some of the crimes that have transpired within campus grounds. Stories of theft, in the form of lost belongings in classrooms and of hold-up victims – students, passersby and cab passengers alike – have also circulated among the UP crowd through news reports, online updates and by word of mouth.
In the College of Mass Communication (CMC) alone, the stealing of an LCD projector of the Department of Broadcast Communication in 2012 prompted the CMC Administration to install four closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to better secure the College.
Towards a safer campus
According to campus police, UP Diliman is located in a metropolitan district surrounded by four major areas: Katipunan, Commonwealth Avenue, Philcoa and Fairview, most of which are high-flying zones of criminal activity.
Despite these incidents, authorities assured they are continuously on the go to efficiently improve security inside the campus.
“Strategic planning is the first step,” said the late Chief Security Officer of the UP Diliman Police (UPDP) Professor Edgardo Dagdag in an earlier interview, referring to the first move he thought best to accomplish first to solve the security problems.
According to Dagdag, the office’s plan focused on raising the salary and giving out additional bonuses such as raised ranks for deserving policemen.
UPDP studies revealed that problems arise from the poor performance of old police officers who did not receive any incentive for their long-time service. He states that if the staff members feel they are prioritized, then they will perform their job more efficiently.
Dagdag believes the safety and security departments would function better and more effectively if they work closely together.
“The communication wouldn’t be such a hassle,” he added. Before, departments were scattered across the almost 500-hectare land of the campus, but all security departments now had a central management under Dagdag.
Dagdag, who was tasked to head the security force on March 12 last year, died Sept. 22 due to kidney cancer. Atty. John Baroña, member of the UPD Campus Safety and Welfare Committee and an administrative officer at the UP Department of Military Science and Tactic was appointed Oct. 18 as acting Chief Security Officer, in light of recent events.
Security upgrades needed
After negotiations with the Quezon City Police Department, Dagdag was happy that UP has been given 10 bicycles and an additional patrol car to the only one the university owns. However, he admitted that the satisfaction did not fully transcend to the actual state of security.
“Alam naming marami pang kulang, [pero] masosolusyunan naman (We know a lot of the things we need are yet to be provided, but the shortage can be resolved),” he said.
On the other hand, outgoing UPDP Officer-in-Charge Bernie Baltazar admitted in an earlier interview that there is still a significant deficiency in the number of policemen inside the campus.
UPDP has more or less 39 members distributed in three shifts, with at least eight men patrolling the campus at a time, according to Baltazar.
Four police officers are assigned to the Supervisory Team for Private Security (STPS), while three are part of the anti-squatting team to supervise the activities of informal settlers in the campus.
However, Baltazar said the lack can be balanced by the 52 roaming members of the Special Services Brigade (SSB), dubbed as “village watchmen” of the campus who assist campus police for peace and security efforts.
To improve security in UP Diliman, Baltazar noted that manpower increase in UPDP is necessary, while the proposal to put CCTV cameras around the campus is also being considered.
After Sudario’s case, the presence of outsiders in-campus has since been questioned, as police found that the suspects were construction workers hired to work graveyard shifts.
After the incident, a patrol car has been stationed near the Sampaguita dormitory.
Dean Michael Tan of the College of Science and Philosophy has informed Chancellor Caesar Saloma about Marasigan’s incident. According to Tan, the Chancellor said “there are leads that have taken the police to Cainta.”
Two new members will also be added to the roster of SSB. The Chancellor also promised to put in more lights and security personnel around the campus, according to Tan.
UP takes pride as a free and open university – but such openness makes the campus vulnerable to crimes.
Above all these security measures and preventive actions, members of the UP community should still exercise constant vigilance – lest we pay the price.
(For security concerns, the UP Diliman Police may be reached at 928-3615, 981-8500 loc. 4008 and 0939-885-9459.)