IS THE “DILIMAN REPUBLIC” at risk of a crime wave?
Concerns about peace and order at the university, a sprawling campus of about 500 hectares, grew following the severe beating a few months back of a senior political science student during a robbery attempt by an outsider at the office of the University Student Council at Vinzons Hall.
Recently, a newspaper carried a story of another coed being stabbed in another robbery attempt at one of the university’s parking lots.
But professor Edgardo Dagdag, who, as chief administrative officer of the office of the chancellor of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, is effectively the campus’ police commissioner, allays fears UP has become as crime-ridden as the rest of Metro Manila.
For Dagdag, reports that UP Diliman, the proudly self-sufficient, self-contained “republic,” has become the wild, wild west are—as in the words of Mark Twain— greatly exaggerated.
“The UP campus is much safer than any part of Metro Manila, although I am not saying there’s zero incidence [of crime] with 120,000 [people coming and going every day],” he says.
Theft is the number one problem in the university, Dagdag says, although they have had occasional cases of budol-budol (a scam where people are inveigled to part with their money and valuables as they are asked to keep “safe” what seems like wads of cash).
But overall, he says, the situation is under control.
But the retired professor, whose field of expertise as an educator is security in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), says recent incidents were isolated, though instructive. In fact, the attack at Vinzons Hall resulted in his being “reappointed” to his current job and an extensive and thorough review of campus security.
Dagdag says, with the support of Diliman chancellor Caesar Saloma, he has initiated the review to identify means to beef up security and keep the community and its members safe.
All security measures, he stresses, have to take into account the distinctive UP culture, particularly the idea that Diliman is a “republic.”
Dagdag says they have to be mindful that the UP community jealously guards the university’s independence and autonomy. “You know the UP culture is all about freedom, privacy and [respect for] human rights. We will be the last to violate those cultural traditions. I see no reason to change the culture. In fact, I want to promote and advance the glorious UP tradition of truth, freedom and human rights,” he says.
Now a professorial lecturer for graduate foreign service students, Dagdag is somewhat amused that he has moved from macro to micro security problems.
The expert on China, regional and international relations, who laughingly says, “you can ask me about the South China Sea territorial conflict, nuclear weapon in North Korea, terrorism and the Panatag Shoal controversy, among others,” may seem out of his depth, tackling UP’s peace and order problems.
But Dagdag is quick to point out he is no stranger to simple police matters. He was UP’s police commissioner in 1985-1986 and had taught classes for the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He considers his holding office at the Institute of Physics in the new UP science complex appropriate since he believes scientific advances, particularly information technology, can help him achieve his goals in his new job.
“Decision-making should be based on timely and accurate information. Part of my job is to establish a crime database [that will help in the] deployment of personnel,” he says.
His initial step as security czar was to draw up a strategic plan. He says, with the plan, the “UP police now knows where it is at present and where it should go and what it is supposed to accomplish. There is a clearer knowledge of personnel and their duties and responsibilities [and how] they will do their jobs,” he explains.
All this information Dagdag plans to upload into a website, which he hopes will be running before the end of the year that will not only keep the UP security forces informed of their specific assignments, core values, objectives and goals, present activities and future plans but, more importantly, keep the public informed of the security situation at the university. He says the website will be updated every month.
In UP, the campus police acts very much like a regular law enforcement agency. It maintains order, enforces rules and regulations, investigates crime reports, conducts follow-up if necessary.
It even does intelligence work, checking out rumors of brewing fraternity wars so the vice chancellor for student affairs can take steps to avert them. Dagdag says, if asked, the police also provides security to students who must venture into the turf inside the campus of a rival fraternity.
The Quezon City (QC) police generally stays out of the campus, unless invited.
Inside the campus, the UP police has the authority to arrest a suspect and investigate a case. After the campus police has finished its investigation, it then hands over the suspect and the case file to Station 9, the closest QC police detachment.
But in recent years, the UP police force has been greatly hampered by the gradual decimation of its ranks. Dagdag says, from 120 officers when he was commissioner in 1985-1986 (which, at the current population, means one officer for every 1,000 people), UP now has only 40 policemen, or one for every 3,000.
‘Blue’ guards take over
Those who retired were never replaced. Instead of hiring new policemen, UP hired “blue” guards, people who man entrances checking identification cards and bags and packages. “Apparently, there was a policy before to strengthen the contractual security force,” Dagdag says.
For him, however, the blue guards cannot substitute for the regular university cops. “Policemen are expected to serve for at least 25 years. [They] will have loyalty [to the university]. In a security organization, loyalty is very important. Blue guards may change every year because [their services] are contractual,” the professor points out.
Blue guards at UP are also not allowed to carry firearms in the daytime. They are supposed to call the university police when there is a problem. Only guards working at night are allowed to have firearms.
UP came up with other stop-gap measures to pick up the slack in security. “Alam mo naman ang UP masyadong marunong so, [unable to hire] new policemen, it adopted an alternative setup that supports the police force,” Dagdag says.
The Special Services Brigade (SSB), whose members are like barangay tanod (village watchmen), assists the UP police. “They (SSB members) are not authorized to carry firearms, they are more like the old junior policemen,” Dagdag says. An efficient radio system allows them to be deployed where they are most needed—to ease traffic jams, help arrest suspects, etc.
The UP security chief says SSB members get the minimum wage and are not even considered contractual employees.
For Dagdag, the priority remains revitalizing and strengthening the UP police force. It needs an investigation office, not just one officer; a team to do follow-up on open cases, and, more important for Dagdag, a women and children’s desk.
The UP police has “no fire section, no traffic section” and not enough people to patrol the huge campus. He says he feels like the fingers of the UP police have been amputated.
An important aspect of his efforts to bring back the “good old days” of the UP police is a data consolidation project that will put together crime reports, perhaps starting with the last five years.
He expects the project to indicate trends and identify areas and time of day or night where people are most vulnerable so they can work out patrols to cover those areas at specified times.
He says senior mass communication students have offered to share the results of researches they are doing on campus security.
Saloma has also authorized the hiring of nine new policemen immediately. Dagdag hopes other vacancies will be filled up by 2013, bringing the total members of the police to not less than 80.
Dagdag says they will give priority to qualified SSB members with civil service eligibility and appropriate training. He is also encouraging regular policemen to pursue a college degree so they can get promoted to higher ranks. At the moment, he says, lack of college education keeps policemen at the bottom two levels.
With the support of Saloma, UP is considering ways to help the policemen finish college.