UPLB student’s death prompts tighter security
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—How safe is the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) campus?
This was the concern raised by a family of a 16-year-old boy who, along with another young man, was killed three months ago in the same vicinity where UPLB student Given Grace Cebanico was raped and murdered two weeks ago.
The two young men were killed in what their families claimed to be a summary execution, but which the police had denied—in the pitch dark, grassy roadside of the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) road at the UPLB compound.
The area, where Bradley Inway, 16, and Gilbert de Ocampo, 23, were killed on July 24 was less than 50 meters from where the body of Cebanico was found on Oct. 11.
“I could just feel the agony of (Cebanico’s) parents. It was also where (Inway) was brutally murdered,” said a relative of Inway in a phone interview last week.
The area where Cebanico’s body was dumped was only about five meters from the roadside and about 20 meters from the nearest village outpost in Barangay Putho-Tuntungin.
“But it is really dark here at night and only very few vehicles pass by,” said resident Teodoro Tamban, 40. He also said that the outpost was usually unmanned.
“Not really every year, but it was not the first time (that someone was murdered here). It’s not something new to us,” another resident said.
Although the IPB maintains a 24-hour security, a guard, who requested anonymity, said it was impossible for them to secure the road as it was no longer under their jurisdiction, but of the University Police Force (UPF).
The UPF is under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs.
“I don’t think the university is (solely) to be blamed (for what happened),” said UPLB Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Dr. Virginia Cardenas, adding that the recent murder was an isolated case.
In her count, she said there were about four incidents along the IPB road in the last five years—the first two were motorcycle accidents in 2010.
Cardenas, however, admitted that the one kilometer stretch of the IPB road did not have light posts, making the area “very inviting” for criminals. In fact, the suspects in Cebanico’s murder were supposed to take the victim to the nearby village of Mainit, which is already in the adjacent town of Bay, but chose the area instead because it was dark.
Days after Cebanico’s murder, the university in coordination with the local government and the police were quick to draw up tighter security measures inside and outside the university.
One was to put up light posts along the IPB road, although Cardenas said the plan was under way even before the murder incident.
“We just had to put up the lights along the Pili Drive first (the road from the campus to the International Rice Research Institute) and the IPB road was supposed to be the next,” she said.
The university also plans to install more CCTV cameras, establish road barriers at the entry and exit points of the campus, and adopt an ordinance from the local government to implement a curfew on minors from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. inside and outside the campus.
Another suggestion made during a recent meeting between the local government, the academe, and village officials, was to make a list of the residents especially in the villages of San Antonio and Batong Malake, where most UPLB students are renting apartments and dormitories.
The Laguna police have deployed teams from its provincial office to augment police visibility along the IPB road and in Batong Malake, where Cebanico was abducted, while village outposts were seen manned especially at night a week after the student’s death, residents said.
“Given Grace’s blog said: ‘You were born because you are going to be important to someone.’ That is true. This was a wake-up call to all of us,” Cardenas said.
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