MSU back to ‘normal’ but soldiers stayPhilippine Daily Inquirer
OZAMIZ CITY—Classes have returned to normal at Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City Friday, a day after it was shut down following a military operation in the wake of an ambush that killed three soldiers on Wednesday.
The disruption of classes and services on Thursday “is behind us now,” MSU president Dr. Macapado Muslim told the Inquirer by phone. He said the worsening campus situation was only on social media and did not reflect the actual situation at the government-run university.
Muslim said the impression that the situation in the university had worsened was brought about by the barrage of disinformation circulating mostly through text messages and picked up by social media users.
One text message, which was also forwarded to the Inquirer, urged students and faculty members to vacate the campus by Friday as the Army was supposed to launch a massive manhunt against the perpetrators of the ambush.
The announcement supposedly came from a certain Colonel Dela Peña who was introduced as “spokesman of Campo Ranao,” the headquarters of the Army’s 103rd Brigade. “When I checked with Col. Daniel Lucero (brigade commander), there is no Colonel Dela Peña in Campo Ranao,” Muslim said.
Another text message had a certain Prof. Hassan Macapado saying the campus is closed for one week for the “security and safety of the administrative staff, faculties and students” as “the MSU System is under investigation.”
To counter the developing misconception, Muslim went around the dormitories, where many students stay, “to bring the true information to students” about the real security situation in the 400-hectare university campus.
But Muslim admitted that traffic adjustments had to be made as one lane of the university’s main road, where the ambush took place, remained closed. He said this was to give way to the police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives to gather evidence.
Army soldiers were also visible inside the campus. Muslim defended the continued presence of Army troops, adding that they were there to beef up the school’s security capability.
Muslim said that aside from keeping order inside the campus of close to 20,000 people, including students, faculty and staff members, security forces also watch over the activities of non-university people, who were given permits by previous MSU presidents to set up residence inside the campus that spans five villages.
They include many Lanao del Sur politicians.
Several groups like Scholare and the Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement have opposed what they described as the “militarization of the university” and called for “civilian takeover” of the security operation.
But Mujiv Hataman, acting governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, allayed the activists’ fears saying “greater law enforcement presence will respect human rights and civil liberties.”
Hataman said questions about the presence of security forces inside the campus could be settled with a clear appreciation of what security issues confront the university.
“That is why I am supporting a thorough and wider investigation to determine the broader context of incidents including the ambush,” Hataman told the Inquirer by phone.
Sources told the Inquirer that avenging the death last month of a certain Gamal was just one likely motive for Wednesday’s attack, an idea that Lucero has supported.
Another motive could be to avenge the “unfavorable outcome of the general registration” on the careers of some local politicians.
Lucero had said the Army had been instrumental in blocking the entry of throngs of would-be flying registrants into Marawi City and Lanao del Sur during the 10-day general list up in July. Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao