Police in schools
Schools need to be safe. No quarrel over that, and if there have to be discussions, it should be about defining what the safety risks are, which range from drugs to traffic accidents, theft to sexual harassment.
Now comes the Philippine National Police, its former head and now neophyte Sen. Ronald dela Rosa and its present chief, Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde, arguing that safety includes protecting students from the influence of leftists, and that they need to be present in campuses to deter this influence.
Protest actions and statements have been the response, which should not be surprising given other developments like the proposal to revive the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and Dela Rosa’s proposal to allow the AFP and the PNP to “indoctrinate” students in colleges. Together, they look like plans for a militarization of our schools.
Much has been said about the need to protect academic freedom, which is the reason the University of the Philippines (UP) has agreements with both the military and the police, the latest one signed in 1995, for uniformed personnel not to be stationed inside UP campuses and to provide prior notification if indeed they need to enter. There is also a provision that allows uniformed personnel to enter “in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency.”
The agreements also require UP to strengthen its own “security, police and fire-fighting capabilities so as to leave no vacuum that can be exploited by malefactors or criminal elements.”
All eight of UP’s constituent universities do hire security guards, more than 400 in UP Diliman alone. UP Diliman and UP Los Baños have police departments, although their jurisdiction is limited to the campus grounds and they are not part of the PNP. In Diliman, we also have an unarmed Special Services Brigade that help with traffic and day-to-day peace and order concerns.
The work of the campus security forces is not easy. UP Diliman has the largest campus among universities in Metro Manila—almost 500 hectares, with a large fluctuating population of students, faculty, staff, informal settlers and, on weekends, several thousands of visitors who look at our campus as a public park.
We’ve managed, even with great difficulty.
I’d like to tackle the practical concerns around this idea of using the police to control “infiltration” and “indoctrination” by leftists by looking at recent history.
I was in UP Diliman during the early years of martial law and remember how our security guards were given the task of watching out for the “aktibista.” At building entrances, all bags were inspected for “subversive materials.” Rallies were forbidden, as were DG’s or discussion groups — what Senator Dela Rosa might call “indoctrination sessions.”
That didn’t stop the antimartial law underground from growing. Protest graffiti and slogans on adhesive tape continued to appear on walls. Flash protest actions, even during a graduation ceremony where Imelda Marcos was conferred an honorary degree, erupted unexpectedly. Underground newspapers and statements were passed around in classrooms and corridors.
Students and faculty were well aware that there were also government agents or informers assigned to sit in classes to observe faculty and students. They were easy to detect, not quite looking like students, and unable to participate in class discussions. Yet faculty and students continued to speak out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these “ajax,” as they were called, began to be also convinced about the justice of the causes. I certainly saw that with the security guards who would wave us and our bags by with a gruff “Ingat lang” (be careful).
Note that in the United States, where campus police took over starting in the 1970s because of police brutality issues, there are questions, too, on how relevant these hybrid campus police are, even amid threats of mass shootings and other crimes. Always, the reservations are about the potential abuse of power by armed men.
There is room, certainly, for cooperation with the military and the police, preferably off campus. (Smile.) We stand to learn from the police and the military in areas like disaster preparedness, for example, crime investigation methods or, maybe in the future, the use of security dogs (bomb-sniffing, not attack dogs).
On our end, UP Diliman can offer uniformed personnel training courses we’ve developed for our guards and police around issues like gender sensitivity, intercultural relations, managing suicide attempts, even handling stray animals.
Anything but instilling fear and mind control, which have no place in any university, whether by teachers or the police.
(My column today consists of personal reflections and is not an official statement of the University of the Philippines.)
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