UP execs see more pact violations after prof’s arrest
MANILA, Philippines — Officials of the University of the Philippines (UP) on Tuesday said they would “take all necessary steps” to prevent a repeat of what they regarded as violations committed by the Quezon City police when they arrested a professor residing within the campus on Monday.
Plainclothesmen earlier arrested Melania Flores, who teaches Philippine literature in UP Diliman, at her home for alleged failure to remit social security contributions by a housekeeper formerly in her employ.
Under Section 28 of the Social Security Act of 2018 (Republic Act No. 11199), an employer who fails to remit an employee’s contributions to the Social Security System (SSS) faces imprisonment of six months to six years.
Joined by her UP colleagues in a press conference, Flores, now out on bail, maintained that she had already cleared the matter with the SSS and that her housekeeper was no longer in her employ since 2013.
QC’s ‘most wanted’
She also emphasized her familiarity with labor rights, as she used to head the All-UP Academic Employees Union.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) tagged Flores as the city’s “most wanted person” for allegedly violating the SSS law. It sought a warrant for her arrest in September 2022 from Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 230.
Flores said she never knew there was a case against her because she was never notified by the court.
“Imagine that. If it’s a warrant of arrest, they know where my address is. But when it’s a simple court order or subpoena, they don’t?” she said.
The professor—who posted bail of P72,000 late Monday afternoon after being detained at the QCPD headquarters in Camp Karingal—noted that the police officers who came to serve her warrant were not in uniform.
‘More will be arrested’
They also pretended to be employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, she added.
For her friends and supporters in the UP community, the manner of Flores’ arrest was questionable in itself.UP Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, who accompanied Flores when she posted bail, said the arrest that was carried out within UP grounds violated a 1992 agreement between the university and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The accord basically bars police from conducting operations on the UP campus without prior notice.
Nemenzo also explained that under the agreement, police officers involved in such operations should be in uniform and faculty members should be present as witnesses.
“None of these were followed when professor Flores was arrested on campus,” he said.
Faculty Regent Carl Ramota said: “We are prepared to pursue … any legal action, against the police officers or the institutions they are involved in.”
Flores warned that her arrest might just be a “sample” of a bigger police crackdown at UP.
She recalled that the officers who came for her showed her a list, with one of them saying “more will be arrested.”
‘A criminal in their midst’
“And then, they really said this to my face: ‘We don’t acknowledge the UP-DILG accord. We wouldn’t be able to arrest anybody if we followed that,’” she added.In response to Flores’ allegations, QCPD Director Brig. Gen. Nicolas Torre III said: “If they (arresting officers) really did that, I will commend them for that. What is important is that they took custody of the wanted person, they introduced themselves as police officers, served the warrant and read her Miranda rights. That’s all the obligation of an arresting officer.”
“Why do they [Flores and other UP officials] need to invent stories that this was (a form of) oppression? No, this is just a simple implementation of a court order,” he added in an ANC interview.
Torre said an inquiry was underway to see if the UP-DILG accord was indeed violated.“UP should be thankful to us that we removed a criminal in their midst. Right now, in the eyes of the law, she is accused [in] a criminal case,” he said.
Citing Flores’ warning, Ramota called on incoming UP president Angelo Jimenez to strengthen the enforcement of 1992 agreement with the DILG.
A separate UP accord, one forged with the Department of National Defense (DND) in 1989, restricts the military from entering campus premises unless in “hot pursuit” operations.
In 2021, however, the DND scrapped the agreement.
Also on Tuesday, the labor coalition Nagkaisa accused the the government of using the SSS law as a harassment tool against Flores.
“The government’s actions demonstrate a blatant disregard for basic human rights and the rule of law. Using the SSS law as a weapon to arrest individuals for political reasons is unacceptable and must be condemned in the strongest terms,” the group said in a statement.
‘Disgraceful’It noted that the pension agency had “records of big employers who failed to remit millions, if not billions, of pesos in SSS contributions from hundreds of thousands of workers, with the companies’ officers or board of directors having pending arrest warrants.” “[Yet] the government has not taken action against them,” the group said. “Instead, the authorities are focusing on a trade union activist-professor who allegedly failed to remit SSS contributions [from] her domestic worker.”
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, in a statement issued by Secretary General Raymond Basilio, said the application of the SSS law in Flores’ case brought ‘’the desperate attacks against unions to a new disgraceful level.”
—WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND JANE BAUTISTA
UP professor arrested for ‘violating’ SSS law
DILG, UP to review 1992 agreement
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