MANILA, Philippines — The arrest of a university professor for an alleged labor violation drew outrage in her own community, which cited an accord with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) restricting police presence in the campus.
Plainclothesmen from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) arrested University of the Philippines (UP) professor Melania Flores at her residence inside the campus at 11 a.m. on Monday.
She was cited for violating Republic Act (RA) No. 8282 or the Social Security Act of 1997, for failure to remit Social Security System (SSS) contributions for her housemaid.
For that alleged violation, QCPD named Flores its “most wanted person” and sought a warrant last September from Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 230.
Flores was taken to the Quezon City police office in Camp Karingal, where protesters gathered calling for her release.
Loja-Pangilinan set the bail at P72,000. The professor was released by 5:20 p.m., according to the UP Office of the Faculty Regent (OFR).
She was escorted by Faculty Regent Carl Marc Ramota, UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, and Rommel Rodriguez, also a faculty member and vice president of All-UP Academic Employees Union.
Both the university administration and Barangay UP Campus confirmed that there was no prior coordination with them before Flores’ arrest.
The union, which she used to head, said her arrest violated a 1992 accord between UP and the DILG, which obliges the police to coordinate with the university’s administration before conducting any operations on campus.
UP has a separate accord with the Department of National Defense from 1989, which restricts military access within campus grounds.
According to union member Mary Grace Concepcion, Flores was not aware of any case against her regarding SSS remittances.
She added that the professor, on Sunday, talked to her housemaid and settled an issue relating to the latter’s SSS contribution.
“[This is] very disturbing and alarming because it’s an assault on academic freedom, especially to those who are known [to be] critical of the [administrations of Rodrigo] Duterte and [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.]. Especially since our job as educators is to exercise critical thinking,” Concepcion said.
“This can happen to anyone who is working in the academe. We should be vigilant and ensure that these things do not happen again,” she added.
Besides noting that Flores’ arrest violated the accord, the union, in its statement, said “this dirty tactic of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group is a means to threaten and harass leader-unionists and patriotic academic workers.”
The University Student Council posted a statement on social media urging UP students to condemn the arrest.
“We call on the UP students to condemn this deceitful arrest of Prof. Flores,… along with our continuous struggle for academic freedom and campus safety,” the council said.
Meanwhile, the OFR wants an investigation into what it called the “serious” protocol lapses surrounding the arrest.
“The Faculty Regent urged the University to use its full administrative and legal machinery to uphold and protect its constituency from intrusion, and keep its campuses a safe haven for political thought and action,” the office said in a statement.
The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy-UP (Contend-UP) said Flores’ arrest is the latest in a “series of intimidation and threats” against UP academics, including the reported abduction last month of UP Cebu lecturer Armand Dayoha and of Dyan Gumanao, a graduate of the university.
“The arrest of Ma’am Melania is part of the successive attacks on educators and progressive individuals who continue to fight for the rights of teachers and unionists,” said Pat Jasmin, a member of Contend-UP.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers denounced the way Flores was apprehended, following reports that the plainclothesmen pretended to be workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development handing out leaflets.
“This is a vile attack by the state security forces against the teacher-unionist leader to harass, intimidate and violate the rights of Prof. Flores,” the group said, adding that there was no sufficient explanation about the basis for the professor’s arrest.