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MSU security not equipped to protect its students

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur – “Pumunta po tayo sa MSU para mag-aral, hindi para patayin (We came to MSU to study, not to get killed).”

This is what Alyasa Oranggaga, a member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), said during the peace rally held at MSU Peace Plaza on December 11 for Crish Lanne Masancay’s murder and all other unsolved murders inside the University.

In 2010, two students were shot near the university tennis court. It was a road rage case. The case didn’t prosper since the victims’ families were coerced to take the amicable settlement as the climate of fear persisted.

“Apat na taon na ang dumaan mula nang mamatay ang aking kapatid mula sa pagkabaril dyan sa Mindanao State University-Marawi Campus. Apat na taong uhaw sa hustisya at ngayon muling nanariwa ang sugat at sakit sa tuwing kami’y nakakarinig nang ganyang pangyayari (Crish Lanne’s murder),” Jennifer Tecson, one of the victim’s sister in the tennis court shooting, posted in Taga MSU-Main Campus jud ka kung? Facebook page.

Two years later on October 25, 2012, Prof. Othello Cobal and his student assistant Erwin Diaz were shot and burned in their internet café in the campus, Mindnolia, at dawn. It took some time before the fire was put out according to reports. The case has been handed to the National Bureau of Investigation in Iligan and a letter was sent to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima urging her to conduct further investigation on the case.

“I have not heard anything about [Prof. Cobal’s] case. As his colleague, I cannot even describe in words my dismay and frustration over what happened and how it’s totally been forgotten. Napakasakit,” said Diandra-Ditma Macarambon, an instructor of MSU’s English Department.

In 2013, a balut vendor and a baker were also shot in different dates and locations.

June this year, Samuel Go III was shot in broad daylight inside the MSU Commercial Center because of an alleged DotA dispute.

All the cases mentioned have remained unsolved and haven’t progressed until today.

After Go’s death this year, another life had gone wasted as Crish Lanne Masancay was shot in the same spot where Go was slain over motives still unknown according to the Philippine National Police Regional Public Safety Battalion (PNP-RPSB).

Security personnel

MSU Marawi sits on a 1,000-hectare campus saturated with residential areas, most not affiliated or sponsored by the University. There are four existing barangays inside the campus.

There are four security forces inside the campus: The MSU Department of Security Services (DSS), PNP-RPSB, and a few troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said Police Inspector Jomar Andres of PNP-RPSB.

DSS is the original security department of the University. Its major function is to serve and secure MSU students, faculty, and staff. At present, they have 146 contractual and 96 regular personnel.

PNP-RPSB, on the other hand, has been augmented upon the request of MSU president Macapado Muslim to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the height of the Coco Rasuman-related kidnappings in the campus, said Andres.

They were installed on September 22, 2012.

It was as a joint force of PNP, AFP and DSS. Now, it stands alone as a public safety battalion to respond to clamors and in crime scenes.

Andres said PNP-RPSB does its weekly operational routines establishing police presence and patrolling on populated areas.

Safety issues

Andres and DSS deputy chief for administration Haron Marohombsar agreed that the top crimes in the campus are snatching, holdup robberies, theft, and akyat-bahay. They also said that some crimes in the campus are triggered by drug addiction.

“If a person is under the influence of drugs, he will always find a way to have and get money,” Marohombsar told Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro. “Madaling mabiktima ang mga estudyante dahil walang kalaban-laban (Students are easy victims because they cannot fight back).”

DSS said it does not have police power or authority to apprehend and can only catch the perpetrators, hand them to Marawi Police Station afterwards, said Marohombsar.

Andres also said that most students and other crime victims become too afraid to file complaints or testify against an offender hindering punishment to crimes committed.

Marohombsar said the offenders who get apprehended can be released after 12 hours if no complaints are filed against them.

PNP-RPSB does not imprison culprits nor conduct investigations but they apprehend offenders if caught in the act or complaints are filed against them, Andres explained.

“Takot sila tumestigo, siguro kasi, takot sila na baka balikan sila [ng mga criminals] (They are afraid to testify may be because they are afraid that the offenders might get back at them),” said Andres referring to Masancay’s case which barely has witnesses who would be brave enough to testify.

“Kung may mga reklamo, susuportahan ng University (If there are complaints the University will support it,” said Marohombsar.

Handicapping conditions of law enforcement

DSS and RPSB have the same problem: There is no transportation available such as patrol cars and other mobile services to immediately respond to crimes and even disasters.

“When a crime happened in one area of the university, my men would have to walk or run to the scene. By that time they arrived on the site, the suspects were already gone. Sino na lang maabutan nila doon? Ang victim na lang. Eh paano kung nakauwi na rin ang victim?” Marohombsar said.

He furthered the university also does not have an ambulance or a fire truck. During fire breakouts, they have to call for help from downtown Marawi that usually takes a long time to get to the fire scene. “MSU has no capability to combat even fire,” he said.

When somebody meets an accident, people have to hire a pedicab to take the patient to the infirmary or hospital. It is even more problematic at night when there are no more pedicabs roaming in the campus.

Marohombsar said that Muslim promised years ago a fire truck and patrol cars. In an interview in 2012, Muslim said he already requested the budget of the patrol cars from the Department of Budget and Management but that it has not been approved yet.

While RPSB’s firearms are supplied by the region, DSS security personnel use personal or borrowed guns for patrols. “Di kami authorized to carry firearms. We are only allowed to use low caliber guns and batuta. Kaya kami inauthorize by the previous university administration because the university has no perimeters like walls,” Marohombsar said.

He admitted that most weapons like the armalites the DSS personnel carry are loose and unlicensed firearms but these are allowed to be carried around through a memorandum receipt. Part of the agreement is to prohibit the said firearms to be taken and used outside the campus.

Aside from the uniforms and office supplies for DSS, there are no more provisions the university provides for the said department. The funding for DSS mostly come from the terminal fee the University collects from jeepney operators plying the Iligan-Marawi route. The fee is remitted to the University.

MSU challenged to act on impunity inside campus

“As [a] state institution, it is imperative for MSU to promote, uphold, and protect the human rights of its constituents. In the spate of murders targeting students, the Liga ng Makabagong Kabataan (LMK) MSU Chapter believes that the MSU administration [should be] held accountable for all violence and crimes inside the campus involving students, faculty members, and staff,” said Reemar Alonsagay, secretary general of LMK and an MSU student.

“The MSU administration’s leniency in immediately bringing justice to the victims and its inability to put an end to violence is intolerable. We therefore demand from the MSU admin to: undertake transparent, accountable, speedy justice for the victims, conduct immediate investigation on the cases of murder in the campus, and strengthen the security mechanism centered on the rights and welfare of the students in the campus,” he furthered.

“Crime is universal. What happened here could have happened anywhere… However, the administration’s lack of even an iota of real action to apprehend the killer is undeniable and unbelievable. Killers here will never be afraid unless the authorities actually start doing their duties,” said Rey Harvey Suello, editor-in-chief of Mindanao Varsitarian, the student publication of MSU Marawi.

We have impunity at its finest here in MSU. Worse, wala talagang nadadala sa court stand … Completely armed ang mga security natin dito pero walang takot sa kanila... In Marawi, jail cells only have powerless and penniless people,” Suello added.

“The safety measures in the campus seem mythical… For so long, we have been vulnerable to different kinds of criminalities and for so long, numerous victims had shed blood, both documented and undocumented… The fact that crimes happened unfailingly within the MSU community means our local government chooses to remain imprudent,” said Amal-Ryan Rinabor, Amnesty International Philippines regional coordinator for ARMM and also an MSU student.

Riz P. Sunio/SUNSTAR


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