UP student-athletes halted by police

Article by R.P.

Two groups of student-athletes from the University of the Philippines were halted by police on their way back to campus on May 10.

At around 1 p.m. near the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay, four UP Pep Squad Drummers were leaving the Mall of Asia Arena after a game and were headed to the UP Diliman College of Human Kinetics (CHK).

Their vehicle was stopped by police who were wearing riot gear. According to accounts from students inside the vehicle, the police asked where the car was from, and if they were carrying rallyists who attended a walkout protest in Manila.

An image of the checkpoint from inside the UP Pep Squad Drummers’ vehicle. Photo from Ariana Vergara.

That day, multi-sectoral groups staged a demonstration in front of the Commission on Elections’ main office and the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to denounce reports of election fraud in the 2022 national elections.

“There were no signs saying it was a checkpoint. Medyo nasa shady na area sila kaya we didn’t notice they were there,” head drummer Ariana Vergara told TNP.

When the driver denied the claim that they were carrying protesters, the police still refused their passage. The driver reiterated that the vehicle only carried drummers, pointing to the drum equipment loaded in the car.

Vergara said the police personnel took photos of the vehicle, which bore the name of the university.

“After ng pag-take ng photo, the police na nag-question left and let us go,” Vergara added.

Meanwhile, a similar incident occurred at around 2:30 p.m. near the Philippine International Convention Center, also in Pasay. A varsity team, who asked to be kept anonymous for security reasons, were blocked by police forces, confirmed Councilor Andrew Ronquillo from the UPD University Student Council (USC).

According to a report sent to the USC, the vehicle only passed the checkpoint when university officials talked to the police to clear the student-athletes.

Vergara said the incident involving the drummers was reported to the UP Varsity Council and the CHK Student Council.

Meanwhile, the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) denied reports of police “harassment” towards the student-athletes, calling the event “fake news.”

In a Facebook post, the QCPD public information office said the incident was proven false via a report from the Anonas Police Station, which was verified through the UP Diliman Police Department.

This, despite the fact that the incidents happened in Pasay, not Quezon City.

Student formations and sports organizations have condemned these two incidents. The UP Fighting Maroons Club released a statement that day and condemned how the police “threatened and traumatized our Iskolar ng Bayan.”

Meanwhile, the CHK Student Council said they are “working with the appropriate offices to ensure the safety of student-athletes.”

The UP President’s Advisory Council released a statement yesterday, May 13, “viewing with grave concern” the red-tagging of its students.

“We will continue to defend our academic spaces. We will protect our students vigorously against red-tagging, harassment, and intimidation. We will safeguard the University from destabilizing forces,” read the statement.

The CHK Student Council has since released an incident report form to tally cases of intimidation or harassment towards students.