In a move students branded as a form of harassment meant to silence their leaders who are steadfastly campaigning against increases in tuition and other fees, the administration of the University of Northern Philippines filed a case of theft against the editor-in-chief of the campus publication.
BY ROD TAJON
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 15, May 18-24, 2008
VIGAN CITY (407 kms. North of Manila) – The University of Northern Philippines (UNP) administration filed a criminal complaint for theft before the City Prosecutor’s Office here against one of its student leaders.
Docketed as I.S. Number 08-049, UNP alleged that in January 11, 2008, the student stole the computer central processing unit (CPU) of Tandem, its official student paper from the locked and barricaded publication office.
In the complaint-affidavit filed by Mr. Nolito Ragunjan, Coordinator for Student Publications of UNP-Vigan, accused Ma. Criselda Diocena, 23 years old, of taking the CPU outside the office without permission from the administration. His complaint was supported by an affidavit signed by Warren Rafal stating that Diocena took the CPU, issues of Tandem and other personal belongings out of the office.
Warren Rafal, in his affidavit, said he asked permission on January 11, 2008 from the administration to open the office, which was locked by the UNP administration since October 2007. The school president Dr, Lauro Tacbas allowed them to enter the office provided they will only get some receipts.
The CPU was brought to the UNP Student Resource Center (SRC), whcih is still within the UNP premises.
Diocena and Rafal were Editor-in-Chief of Tandem and Student Regent respectively, active student leaders who led the campaign against tuition and other fee increases and other repressive policies of the University administration.
As of press time the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Director Dr. Gilbert Arce has not issued any clearance for Diocena and she has not been allowed to take her final examinations.
Meanwhile, Rafal, had to plead with the UNP administration to be able to enroll. Both Diocena and Rafal were also sued by the administration for robbery earlier but the case was not pursued.
Also, last March 2008, Dr. Joel Beleno of the UNP College of Health Sciences sued Jeric Pelayo, the standard bearer of Alliance of Concerned Students-Partido ng Demokratikong Mag-aaral (ACS-PDM) for slander.
According to TANGGULAN Youth Network for Civil Liberties and Human Rights spokesperson Reizell Santos, the cases filed against Diocena and other students leader are desperate moves of the UNP administration to silence students who are conscious of and are upholding academic freedom, and are fighting for the rights and welfare of their fellow students.
Santos stressed that these cases are the reaction of UNP administration to the steadfast campaign of the publication and student organizations against the increase of tuition and other fees,l and against campus repression.
“The UNP administration opts to suppress the basic rights of the students to protect its interest amid the growing clamor against its tuition and other fees increases. It clearly shows its disregard for academic freedom that we should enjoy.” Santos added.
Santos also said that the guards and administration officials constantly harassed Diocena and her colleagues during the peak of the campaign that led to the barricading of their office . To date, the Tandem office is still locked. The UNP administration has opted to produce a new publication, The Blazers.
Diocena admitted that they took the receipts, issues of Tandem and personal belongings out of the office and brought them to the Student Council Office so that they can be read and utilized. “Mr. Rafal suggested that we also bring the CPU out of the office because we still have files saved in the computer for the next regular issue of Tandem,”. she said.
Diocena said she does not have access to the Student Resource Center where the CPU is now located. Mr. Ragunjan has unlimited access to it so that he can have the CPU anytime he wants. “I never intended to take the CPU for my own use. Even the accompanying affidavit of complainant Ragunjan’s supposed witness Warren Rafal stated that the CPU is and have been at the Student Resource Center at the UNP premises” she stressed saying that if his interest was to protect the property of UNP, Mr. Ragunjan has all the means to verify if the CPU subject of his complaint has not been taken away from his watch.
The Diocena and Pelayo’s cases were brought to the attention of various institutions such as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Committee on Education and Culture of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur, Committee on Education of the City Government of Vigan and the Office of Congressman Ronald Singson. Nordis/(Bulatlat.com)