Schools a 'sitting target' for criminals?

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2012 05:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2012 04:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Private schools and the University of the Philippines (UP) system have expressed alarm over a spike in reported crime incidents occurring right inside school campuses.

The Federation of Associations of Private School and Administrators (FAPSA) has branded themselves now as a "sitting target" of criminals and bandits who wreak havoc and fear among their students and teachers.

The FAPSA has around 10,000 private school members all over the country, while the UP system has the most number of campuses, and largest land area, among all schools in the nation.

UP students themselves are aware of news reports concerning crimes that are transpiring not only around the National Capital Region but also in provinces.

Just recently, a UP student was stabbed while being robbed of her belongings in Diliman.

UP students said they are very much afraid for their safety and urged the UP administration to do something about campus security.

"Akala ko safe na kami pag nasa loob ng campus," said student Christian.

Aother student, Ces, said she will just have to adjust to the situation by not walking on campus alone. Another student, Ross, urged other students to arm themselves, not with deadly weapons, but with something that they can use against criminals.

The 3 students believe it would be best to always walk with a group and avoid areas in campus where criminals would most likely to attack.

Open campus

UP Vice President for Public Affairs Dr. Prospero De Vera said crimes may be high in UP campuses compared to other private schools since their school is an open campus where anybody could enter the huge hectare of land.

"UP has to find a solution outside of the traditional solutions," De Vera said. "It’s physically impossible to close the campus by fencing it."

He proposed adding more CCTV cameras and call boxes in every corner of the campus.

He also suggested adding light fixtures to still unlighted areas of UP campuses.

De Vera said the UP campuses, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and local government units should also coordinate with one another on how to strengthen security measures.

He said it is important that information between these units is shared either through seminars or training conducted among PNP personnel and school guards.

De Vera also proposed a campus map indicating the safe places as well as the danger areas that should be avoided by students in certain times of the day.

'Sitting target'

This is also the suggestion of the Eleazardo Kasilag, the president of FAPSA.

Kasilag said PNP trainings and seminars would be of great help in their schools, which were never considered to be a battle zone.

"Pag may dumating na karahasan, terorista, o atake, wala kami kalaban-laban, sitting targets kami," he said.

"Nakakatakot ang sitwasyon namin, wala kaming alam sa ganyan, academics field kami, hindi battlefield."

Kasilag said their member schools are also continually coordinating with barangay officials for "tanods" to also serve as security forces before, during and after crucial class hours.

National Capital Region Police Office chief General Leonardo Espina, meanwhile, vowed to coordinate with the school authorities.

"We are continuously coordinating with the school authorities," Espina said. "Keep their men down to the barangay level to prevent occurrences of crimes within the school area."

Kasilag and De Vera noted that most of the crimes usually do happen when the students are on their way home, or on their way to school.

They believe what happened in Imus, Cavite, where a teacher was robbed and shot, was an isolated case but still worthy of attention.

"UP is still a safe place. Many of the high profile incidents happen outside the campus except that they dump the body back to the campus," said De Vera.

Kasilag, for his part, said: "Walang dapat ikatakot ang mga magulang hagip namin ang responsibilidad, magtiwala lang sila sa amin.”