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MANILA, Philippines – Following the sexual assault incident that occurred over the weekend, concerns on campus safety inside the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman premises have sparked calls for a thorough evaluation of existing security protocols.
Jonette Manalo, 24, used to have a sense of assurance regarding her safety within the UP campus, as she has not encountered any incidents. She said that she could walk freely at night after attending her late classes.
She was confident she was safe because there were security personnel guarding the campus. However, after learning about the sexual assault incident, Manalo now feared for her safety.
“It’s difficult because I always pass through the area where the sexual assault happened. I became afraid for my safety because I don’t have any other way to go since my classes are also nearby, especially considering that the victim is also a woman,” she said in Filipino.
Strengthening the security force
On Saturday evening, July 1, a female UP Diliman student was sexually assaulted along Ylanan Road inside the state university campus in Quezon City.
UP Student Regent Siegfred Severino said the incident highlighted the need to strengthen the security forces designated to ensure the safety and protection of the communities inside the university.
“The incident underscores the pressing need to advocate for increased funding for UP and other SUCs, as the current inadequate allocation hampers office performance, especially in addressing safety and security,” Severino said.
The UP Diliman Police, which is the designated law enforcement agency inside the sprawling university campus, is comprised of a small team of only 42 individuals, including 33 uniformed special police officers, 7 regular administrative support staff members, and 2 non-UP contractual employees.
In a separate statement, UP Diliman Chancellor Edgardo Vistan II said that additional personnel will be assigned to patrol the campus in response to the assault.
For Severino, this is also a challenge for university administrators to uphold the claim that the campus is a safe space for students and its constituents.
However, Severino made it clear that while there was a need to strengthen the security forces within the campus, it should not be interpreted as permitting the entry of state police personnel into UP Diliman.
“I sincerely hope that the occurrence should not be exploited as a justification to advocate for police intervention within our university, as it does not enhance the safety of the students,” he said.
Due to the 1989 UP-DND Accord, UP has its own police force, barring the entry of military and police personnel into UP campuses without prior notice from the university administration. This agreement safeguards UP’s academic freedom and autonomy as a state university.
However, following the termination of the accord in 2021, there have been multiple instances of state police being seen within the university premises.
“We have observed that the increased visibility of police within the campus adds stress and fear among students. We should avoid adding unnecessary stress by allowing police to roam around the campus, considering the history of intimidation they have inflicted upon student leaders,” he said.
Manalo hoped that the UP administration will prioritize the safety of its constituents, especially for students like her.
“UP is often referred to as a safe haven for everyone, and I genuinely hope that there will never come a time when I feel unsafe even within the confines of my own campus,” she said.