education in the Philippines

Baguio universities move to secure campuses after students receive threats

Sherwin de Vera
Baguio universities move to secure campuses after students receive threats

POLICE VISIBILITY. Personnel from PNP Cordillera, including the Special Weapons and Tactics group, were deployed in and outside the SLU Main campus to ensure security text messages threatened harm against students.

Micko Nieves/White & Blue

Aside from their constant call for the safe resumption of face-to-face classes, students are also campaigning against disinformation and historical distortions

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Members of the Baguio police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) were deployed at the main campus of Saint Louis University Baguio (SLU) on Tuesday morning, September 27, after the SLU Supreme Student Council reported a threat sent to students there and at the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB).

The SLU and UPB student councils, in separate Facebook posts on Tuesday, said they received reports of text messages threatening harm to students of the two institutions. 

The unknown threat sender justified the violent plan, “Dapat lang sa inyo may masaktan masampolan para tumigil kayo sa pag laban sa pangulo.” (Someone needs to get hurt as an example so you stop fighting the President.)

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. comes from Ilocos Norte, one of the “Solid North,” provinces which staunchly backed the two-decade rule of his dictator father and namesake.

Replying to Rappler’s query, SLU said they are “in close coordination to address the concerns surrounding the threat sent to the individual” with the local police. 

“SLU has been on alert even prior to the incident. Today, early morning, the campus has been cleared and the PNP & SWAT have been most visible. We are committed to everyone’s safety and we encourage the usual vigilance,” the university said. 

The SLU Supreme Student Council (SLU SSC) said it is in close coordination with the university as it advised peers “to stay vigilant and prioritize their safety.”

The UPB Student Council has also coordinated with school officials to investigate the matter. 

‘Stop fighting the President’

The threat came from cellphone number, +63 930 728 1030, calling out students from the two universities for allegedly constantly criticizing the government. The series of messages came from 1:28 a.m. to 2:48 a.m. on September 27.

“Napuno na ang grupo namin, kikilos na kami mula ngayon. Mga estudyante ng Slu at Up naihanda na naming ang lahat. May mga tao na kaming nakahanda sa loob humanda kayo,” said the message. 

(Our group has had enough; we will take action. SLU and UP students, we have prepared everything. We have men ready inside, so you be ready.) 

“Inisip namen dati na bata kayo marami pa kayong di alam at matutopa kayo pero di nagbabago mga estudyante nyo. Dapat lang sa inyo may masaktan masampolan para tumigil kayo sa pag laban sa pangulo,” the sender added. 

(We initially thought that you were still young and had lots to learn, but your students did not change. You deserve to get hurt for you to learn and stop fighting the president.) 

The sender ended the message with the statement of coming bloodshed, justifying its goals by saying the two schools teach the same thing.

SECURE. A Baguio Cordillera Police Special Weapons and Tactics (PNPSWAT) team deploys inside the main campus of Saint Louis University Baguio following threats against students critical of the government. Courtesy of Micko Nieves/White & Blue
‘Defend democracy’

There have been sustained student actions since the start of classes in August at the  universities. Aside from their constant call for the safe resumption of face-to-face classes, the protesters also scored disinformation campaigns and historical distortion. 

The latest of these demonstrations was on September 21, to mark the 50th anniversary of Martial Law.

Both student bodies condemned the incident. 

“These acts of fascism must end now. We are one in the call to defend democracy and uphold our human rights,” SLU-SSC said. 

“Upholding the rights and welfare of our constituents by creating and protecting safe/democratic spaces online and on-ground is a crucial aspect of ligtas na balik-eskwela (safe return of classes),” UPB-SC said. 

In a statement, Youth Act Now! Against Tyranny (YANAT) Baguio-Benguet said that schools should be a safe place for learning and critical thinking, not subject to attacks.

“Now that we are under the rule of Marcos Jr., the son of a dictator and human rights offender Marcos Sr., it is apparent that the youth, even inside their schools, who are simply advocating for their and the people’s rights are in danger,” said Sapphira Barroga, YANAT Baguio-Benguet spokesperson.

“Attacks of this nature on students that engage in social critique will only cause fear and panic. This is unmistakably a tactic the state uses to silence anyone who wishes to criticize them. Additionally, standing up for our rights should never be tagged as terrorism,” she added. – Rappler.com

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