Even with government officials’ continued bid to increase police and military presence in colleges and universities, there has seemingly remained a sense of security for those belonging to private institutions. Surely, as long as students are on a private campus, they will be safe from coercion by state forces. Well, as it appears, not anymore.
The recent police raid on the Lumad school in Cebu warns us of this sort of threat. While it was foremost a human rights issue stemming from the continued harassment of Lumad peoples by the state, it also made clear a chilling reality that one can no longer help but acknowledge—that campus militarization also looms over private schools.
Consider the February 15 incident. The Lumad children were sheltered in a retreat house inside the University of San Carlos’ (USC) Talamban Campus. That is, they had stayed inside the premises of a private university and were thus on private property. Unless the police officers were in hot pursuit—which they obviously were not—they would have needed a valid warrant to enter. Whether this condition was met remains unclear: several reports claim the police had no warrant, while state authorities insist that they did but are dubiously unable to provide pertinent details.
And then there is the fact that the officers entered the campus without notifying any school administrator, as USC President Fr. Narciso Cellan himself revealed. Whether or not they are required by law to extend such courtesy, is it not nonetheless concerning that uniformed personnel can enter and roam private school grounds as quickly as that?
While many may like to believe that the law still provides sufficient safeguards for educational institutions, recent events have only suggested that these are easily circumvented. For state universities and colleges, a chilling precedent was set when it only took the government one arbitrary and unilateral decision to end its 1989 pact with the University of the Philippines. For private schools, the USC raid should be our warning and wake-up call that we too are exposed to the threat of state coercion.
For DLSU, this becomes all the more worrying, considering that not too long ago, the University was among many that were labeled by government red-tagging mouthpiece Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade as communist recruitment hubs. And it is no secret how aggressively this government acts on its own suspicions. That, when face-to-face classes resume, state forces would barge into the school, supposedly with a warrant, in search of alleged communists or rebels is not a remote possibility anymore; perhaps it may be unlikely, but it becomes all the more plausible every time the government cracks down on dissident groups.
While students must therefore counteract with continued vigilance, the duty to protect them from such abuses, especially while they are on campus, falls upon schools. Administrators of private colleges and universities ought to take precautionary action and identify new ways to keep its students secure. Private institutions can no longer revel in their privilege of being content with their supposed security.