CEBU, Philippines – Students and academics on Wednesday, January 18 protested against a proposed city ordinance that would require schools to turn over to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) their calendars of activities.
Youth and student organizations and some civil society groups rallied in front of the Cebu City Hall legislative building while the city council held a public hearing on Councilor Jose Lorenzo Abellanosa’s proposed “Anti-Gun Violence and School Safety Ordinance of Cebu City”.
The students also protested how UP Student Council chairperson Cleisteil Cimafranca’s presentation at the public hearing was cut short as she detailed former events that strengthen apprehensions on the measure.
“It is not their scope of work or responsibility to focus on academic calendars,” Cimafranca said at the protest.
“This is just a ploy for them to get information about students,” she added, speaking in Bisaya.
The introductory note to the proposed ordinance cites the need to afford greater protection to schools, teachers, students, and their families from the threats of gun violence.
The proposed measure is presented as “the primary policy for public order and safety to protect schools and universities from all forms of lawlessness, criminality, and other threats to peace and order.”
Section 6 of the measure requires schools to submit their calendar of activities for the academic year to the CCPO and PNP within 15 days before the beginning of every school year.
Schools would also have to submit a list and designated time of school events, and the expected number of attendees, at least one week before an event.
The All UP Academic Employees Union also rejected the proposed ordinance, warning that it would “curtail the academic freedom of institutions of learning which is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.”
It called the measure an attempt to institute a “surveillance mechanism and police state localization.”
The group described the proposed ordinance as “an Owellian license to implant 1984 in Cebu City,” a reference to George Orwell’s 1949 science fiction novel about a dystopian society under continual surveillance.
“If the city government and the CCPO are indeed concerned with the safety and security of the academic community in Cebu City, they can start by giving a thorough and impartial investigation (into) the abduction of University of the Philippines Cebu lecturer Armand Jake Dayoha and April Dyan Gumanao,” the organization said.
Cimafranca was cut off as she was explaining why students are wary off the CCPO, citing the February 2021 raid on the University of San Carlos Talamban Campus against a supposed Lumad guerrilla training camp. What the USC hosted was a school for child refugees of conflict that many academics in the city supported.
The UP Cebu student council head and the All UP Academic Employees Union also pointed out other instances where police violated the state university’s academic freedom by cracking down on campus protests over social and political issues.
Kei Galon, Anakbayan Cebu chairperson said faculty and students alike fear the measure “might lead to unwarranted surveillance by state forces in learning institutions and impinge on academic freedom, free thought and expression, especially with the long and extensive accounts on red-tagging forums in schools and the Cebu 8 incident on June 5, 2020, where students were arrested in UP Cebu.”
With Jacqueline Hernandez/ Rappler.com