Govt Spies in State Schools: Threat to Academic Freedom

Nov. 12, 2006

The University of the Philippines (UP) as the premier academic institution in the country remains one of the bulwarks of academic freedom. But its students are being harassed and military and police forces are intensifying surveillance operations inside the campus. Reyna Mae Tabbada reports for Bulatlat.

MANILA — Floyd Tiongson, an editor of the Philippine Collegian, recounted several incidents when the staple military elements inside the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) System made their clandestine presence felt. The Collegian, also embattled in a fiscal battle with the school administration, is the official student publication of UP Diliman.

In an interview with Bulatlat, the cases Tiongson recounted go back to 2005. For instance, there was a report when a civilian directly identified himself as a member of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). This was followed by information that unidentified men with dubious credentials were trying to access student records at the University Registrar.

The latest occurrence of the militarys apparent infiltration in the UP Diliman campus happened July this year. Because of budget constraints, the number of traditional security enforcers in the campus called the blue guards was cut down. In order to augment the lack in the security force, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (OVCCA) established the Special Security Brigade (SSB).

Sila yun mga makikita mo na mukhang mga tanod sa Diliman (They look like village watchmen and can be seen around the Diliman campus.), describes Tiongson.

What raised the suspicion of the faculty, students, and non-academic personnel was that 15 members of the Philippine Marines tried to apply for the SSB after the OVCCA terminated the services of several inefficient members. When confronted with the issue, the administration said that the 15 applicants were not in active status.

But an officer of the University Student Council (USC) was able to get hold of the papers of the suspicious applicants. The documents showed that the applicants were highly trained in combat.

Tiongson said that the incident is a violation of an accord where military and police operations inside any UP campus are prohibited. He also pointed out that these are really cases of intimidation.

Target: Student leaders

When asked who the targets of these intimidations were, Tiongson cited the fact that these instances happened to students who have known affiliations with militant student organizations like the student council, student publication, and mass organizations like Anakbayan (Sons and Daughters of the People) and League of Filipino Students (LFS).

He said that the military and the police has taken special interest in UP because of the state universitys influence in public opinion.

UP has a strong opinion about this administration, Tiongson said. It can mobilize a big force and because it belongs to the academic community, it influences public opinion, especially among the middle sector. The campaign for the ouster of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and against Presidential Proclamation 1017 placing the country under a state of national emergency, Executive Order 464, and the Calibrated Preemptive Response policy, were so strong that UP is being viewed as a balwarte (bulwark) of the opposition. It shows how many warm student bodies can be mobilized by student institutions.

Such a statement has been proven before, since student protest actions prevented the entry of the controversial Marines, active or reserved, to the university. Though the attempts to strengthen surveillance operations by the military and police cannot be stopped, awareness among the students of threats to academic freedom and other democratic rights that are being caused by such kind of interventions in the university is slowly proving to be enough for UP to remain a genuine democratic institution.

During martial law, 1972-1986, the Diliman campus was infiltrated by National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) agents who were also believed to be maintaining an intelligence outpost. Security was so stringent that UP security forces were authorized to search and arrest students without any warrant.

Until now, members of the ROTC, an adjunct of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are under orders to monitor students especially those identified with cause-oriented organizations, as well as faculty members known for their radical views. With other reports / Bulatlat

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