education in the Philippines

Baguio assures students’ safety following threat

Sherwin de Vera
Baguio assures students’ safety following threat

SAFE ZONE. Baguio City's acting mayor, Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan says the local government and the police are working to secure students facing threats for criticizing the government.

Nordis

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, the acting mayor, says the city government respects people's rights, 'whether you are from the right, from the left, or from the center'

BAGUIO, Philippines — The  city government of Baguio will not tolerate threats and violence against any individual or group, said Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan. 

The acting mayor told Rappler on Tuesday afternoon, September 27 he considered the text messages received by students of Saint Louis University Baguio and University of the Philippines Baguio as “a serious threat to life”.

“It is important for the students and for us to know who these people are,” the vice mayor said in a mix of Ilocano and English. 

The Baguio City Police Office has already started an investigation and coordinated with the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit Cordillera in its probe of the threat, which vowed bloodshed to convince students “to stop fighting the president.”

Lieutenant Angeline Dongpaen of the Baguio City Police told Rappler in a text message on September 27 that cops will also maintain visibility near the campus. 

“There will be patrollers on the campus but (they will) not stay inside,” she said. 

Dongpaen encouraged students and other university members to approach their community police center near the school or traffic enforcers if they have concerns. 

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Baguio universities move to secure campuses after students receive threats

Baguio universities move to secure campuses after students receive threats
Peace zone

Olowan said Baguio City is considered a peace zone and rights are respected “whether you are from the right, from the left, or from the center.” 

“We will not tolerate any kind (of violence), including a texter who attacks anyone without basis,” he added. 

On Tuesday, SLU and UPB student councils posted on Facebook about a text threatening students from the schools. This prompted university officials to immediately coordinate with the police to ensure the safety on the campus. 

At the same time, the vice mayor also cautioned groups and students not to be quick to point fingers. 

“The problem is anybody can just threaten you through text … and our problem with this is, cellphones are not registered… So, we cannot just accuse anyone, it would be unfair,” he added. 

Olowan invited the concerned schools and students could approach the city council. 

“We will listen to their concern and act (based on findings),” he said. 

The city council has invited student leaders and heads of people’s organizations in the past to address concerns on human rights, including incidents of red-tagging. In December 2018, one of these dialogues called by the city council led the BCPO to apologize to student leaders after red-tagging their organizations. 

SLU Supreme Student Council President Mystica Rose Bucad welcomed the vice mayor’s recommendation for an audience. 

She said they were also thinking of raising the matter to city officials. 

“(W)e also hope to hear their plan of action that we can also adopt and strengthen, especially with the rising incidents like this,” she said in Filipino. 

For now, the Bucad said, students must try to focus on their exams. She assured them that the student council was doing everything with the administration to ensure safety and security in the university. 

Anger

SLU and UPB communities deplored the threat against the students. 

“Threats and intimidations are anathema to a democratic way of life. Thus, it is both unacceptable and undesirable that individuals should be subject to threats, harassment and all other forms of intimidation,” said SLU Faculty and Employees Union president Ronald Taggaoa. 

“A healthy democracy is one in which individuals can freely debate, disagree, and scrutinize public policies and their proponents. We hope to see legitimate persuasion rather than intimidation,” he added. 

UPB’s University Council said students should “engage in discourse for social justice to serve as catalyst for change,” while condemning the “harassment aimed at terrorizing the students” and the “malicious labelling and threats against freedom of expression.” 

Meanwhile, the All UP Academic Employees Union- Baguio Chapter said only fascists, who do not have what it takes to lead and answer to students’ legitimate demands, respond with harassment and threats. 

The union expressed solidarity with the students’ call for the safe resumption of face-to-face classes and protection of academic rights. They commended the BCPO for its swift response and urged the city council to act on the matter and hold the perpetrator accountable. 

Early in his first term, Mayor Benjamin Magalong assured that activists are safe in the city. He affirmed this commitment during a dialogue with civil society groups in March that led to his order to ban materials red-tagging groups and individuals. For his action, serial red-baiter Lorraine Badoy accused the mayor of betrayal and protecting communist front organizations. – Rappler.com

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