Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 40               November 10 - 16,  2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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"High-risk" Institutions

Armies of security guards, IDs with digital tracking codes, monitoring cameras, a ban on pentel pens, students made to sign a waiver not to enlist in anti-administration groups. Campus repression, militant groups say, is back again in Metro Manila’s schools and all because national security and police authorities tag these campuses as breeding ground of terrorists.

By Alexander Martin Remollino

UP-Diliman with Oblation (left) and PUP campus in Sta. Mesa (right): terrorist havens?

Not so long ago it was not so difficult to get into the campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Old Sta. Mesa, a lower middle class district that is traversed by a railway in Manila. All that one had to put up with was the routinary ID check.

This is not the case these days. Today, one has to pass through eight security guards who would search through your bag and perform body search.

This development arose in the wake of the inclusion of PUP Sta. Mesa in a Philippine National Police (PNP) list of "high-risk institutions". Other schools in the list are the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City; the University of the East (UE) on C.M. Recto Avenue in Manila; the Far Eastern

University (FEU) on N. Reyes Avenue in Manila; the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and the Rizal National High School. According to the PNP, these schools are at high risk of becoming "terrorist" centers because of the high number of activists among their students, the police said.

Activist histories

PUP Sta. Mesa, UP Diliman, and UE Recto have been centers of student activism a generation ago or even before the terrorist tag became what critics say a way of suppressing dissent. The Kabataang Makabayan and the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan, student activist organizations that became prominent in the people's struggle during the late 1960s-early 1970s, were founded by students and alumni of UP Diliman. Most of their members came from the same school and from PUP Santa Mesa and UE Recto.

To this day, these universities are known for the great numbers of activists who attend them.

On the other hand, FEU and UST have not been as noted for being centers of activism. However, they experienced a surge of activism within their premises during the height of the campaign to oust former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.


Dr. Francisco "Dodong" Nemenzo, UP President, did not comment on the issue of UP Diliman's being included in the PNP list.

At PUP and elsewhere, however, various quarters have registered strong opposition to these schools' being listed as "high-risk institutions".

PUP President Dr. Ofelia Carague said that although there are many activists in their school, "these are not terrorists and are not armed."

"We are not terrorists," a PUP student said. "It is our studies we attend to."

"We cannot allow the youth who are fighting for their legitimate rights to be labeled as terrorists," said VJ Topacio, vice chair of the militant League of Filipino Students. "This is clearly another red-scare tactic of the Arroyo administration intended to drive the youth away from the growing progressive youth movement."

Raymond Palatino, chair of the militant National Union of Students of the Philippines, sees a prelude to further campus repression in the PNP listing. "A few months ago, National Security adviser Roilo Golez branded militant organizations in various universities as the breeding ground of communist sympathizers,” he said in a recent press statement. “This pathetic line of thinking may help explain the PNP statement about the high-risk schools. The looming increased presence of police personnel in our schools may more than be a move to prevent terrorist attack, but also to check the growing influence of militant organizations."

Campus repression

The NUSP leader added: "Even before the terror scare hit the country, students from FEU, UE and UST had been complaining about repressive policies in their campuses. Security personnel armed with big guns, surveillance cameras and prison-like regulations inside these schools have almost muted the freedom of expression and democratic rights of the students. We worry less of terrorism but more of the attacks on our basic rights by our school officials and the police."

At UST it is not just the high number of armed security guards that the students have to put up with. Their new ID cards have digital tracking codes which could pinpoint the location of any student within the campus.

The schools at the University Belt are not the only ones that have been subjected to such measures.

At the University of Manila, there is no student council, no school paper, no organization whatsoever. According to the university administration, the only duty of students is to study.

At the Mapua Institute of Technology, monitoring cameras are installed at almost every corner.

At the Philippine Maritime Institute, students are not allowed to bring pentel pens. School administrators say this is because pentel pens could be used for "vandalism".

Almost all schools in Metro Manila require freshmen to sign waivers stating that they would not join any organization critical of school policies. Joining such organizations could be grounds for suspension or dismissal.

With the issuance of the PNP list of "high-risk institutions," it is widely feared that an escalation of campus repression by both the government and school administrators is soon to follow. Bulatlat.com

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