Vice chancellors Dr. Janette Silva and For. Roberto Cereno negotiated for the students’ safe passage.
Last May 1, 3:43 PM, police at a Brgy. Lalakay, Los Baños pulled over the van of 10 UPLB students, who were on their way back from a Labor Day protest in Mamatid, Cabuyao that time.
The students, all activists, then found themselves having their IDs and their pictures being taken by authorities.
The reason? Officers alleged that the students were wearing face shields while they were in the van, which they explained was a violation of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) protocols.
When asked about what happened on that day, Charmane Maranan, ex-University Student Council (USC) chair and Karapatan Southern Tagalog (ST) spokesperson was quick to dismiss the accusations.
“Una, hindi totoo na walang face shield yung mga tao. Hindi nila suot yung face shield inside the private vehicle because, since galing nga sa regional mobilization. Pagod ang mga tao so most of us were sleeping,” Maranan told the Perspective in an interview, recalling that she tried negotiating with the police for only one to present an ID. Officers instead insisted for everyone, even minors, to present one.
Maranan then asked for a copy of the ordinance that stated their violation, asking why face shields are still required while in a private vehicle. The police reportedly failed to present any yet insisted that they violated “OPLAN Sita” (possibly referring to an initiative aimed towards controlling “criminality in the pandemic”).
“So dahil walang naglalabas ng ID aside from me, pumasok sila ulit ng van tapos yun na, kinukuha na nila isa-isa yung mga ID. Hindi nila tinitigilan hanggang maglabas ng ID yung mga passengers,” she added. The students claimed that the police had also been aggressive in taking photos of them and the vehicle.
Maranan recalled that an officer ordered one of the students wearing a union shirt to reveal the other shirt underneath and was photographed. While this was happening, Maranan and fellow former USC Chairperson Jainno Bongon reached out to social media and to the UPLB administration about their situation.
A successful negotiation
Three out of the 10 students did not have their IDs with them, which caused the delay at the checkpoint. Maranan said that an officer suggested having someone from their respective homes deliver the IDs to the checkpoint while the rest were being issued with tickets (said to be traffic tickets with “No Face Shield” written below).
About an hour and a half later, with police not responding to inquiries on what they could do at the checkpoint, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA) Dr. Janette Silva personally arrived on the scene to negotiate with the officers.
“When I arrived, none of my questions were answered. I was told to wait for the commanding officer. I tried asking for the IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations] they follow so I may know the basis of taking the students’ IDs, but I kept hearing the same answer: to wait for the commanding officer,” Dr. Silva said.
Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (VCCA) For. Roberto Cereno and Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. also reportedly negotiated with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Los Baños for the students to be allowed to leave as soon as possible and for their IDs to be returned.
The unnamed commanding officer arrived and explained to Dr. Silva that, ideally, the IDs would only be returned only if their fines were settled in the Municipal Hall. She negotiated that the students will be needing them so they were immediately returned on the condition that the fine of Php 200 each are settled upon the reopening of offices which she paid last May 3.
Possible risks and dangers
Even with their IDs returned, Maranan remained suspicious over the police’s actions.
“We have reason to believe [that] they were trying to profile student activists kasi on our IDs were our permanent address t […] I have reason to believe na from Calamba pa lang, parang tagged na nila yung van [na] nakuha na nila yung plate number”, she said, adding that the police kept the students in the dark, until the commanding officer explained to Dr. Silva that it was to ensure MECQ protocols.
Maranan said that the police rarely checked other vehicles, up until they were stopped at the checkpoint.
She recalled that they returned from the mobilization with two other vans coming in second in their convoy. The first van was inspected and allowed to pass but were reminded to wear their face shields, while the third van was not stopped where she suspected that it was already due to the ongoing situation with their van.
John Garcia, a student from the first van, said that he was the only one wearing a red shirt as he was seated at the back and their vehicle was less crowded making it unnoticeable that they came from a mob compared to the second van.
Maranan concludes the interview with her going into detail about the challenges activists faced.
“Dahil wala naman kaming tinatago, we are legitimate activists members of different alliances and organizations. We know our rights in times of harassment, in times of kumbaga ginigipit ka, you need to really stand your ground. That is something I have learned,” Maranan said.
In light of human rights abuses and attacks on civil liberties, the Safe Haven Resolution was being resolved with the UPLB administration as spearheaded by Youth Advocates for Peace with Justice (YAPJUST) and in coordination with the USC and the All UP Academic Employees Union – LB (AUPAEU-LB) (Related story: UPLB students push to keep campus a safe haven after alarming police presence in Brgy. Batong Malake, Los Baños). [P]
Photo from Anakbayan-UPLB