UP Cebu blocks proposed ‘school safety’ ordinance

STUDENTS and faculty members of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu expressed their opposition to a proposed ordinance requiring schools and universities to submit a calendar of activities to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

A public hearing was held on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 at the Cebu City Council’s session hall to tackle the proposed ordinance of Councilor Jose Abellanosa which the UP student council and faculty organization consider a “threat to academic freedom.”

Noe Santillan, vice president for faculty of the UP Cebu academic employees union, said more academic institutions will be presenting position papers against the ordinance in the coming days.

Abellanosa’s “Anti-Violence and School Safety Ordinance of Cebu City” mandates schools and universities to submit a list of school events 15 days before the start of every school year.

Under the proposed ordinance, the CCPO will be tasked to monitor the use and carrying of firearms and shall “exercise due diligence in securing all areas that might be reasonably compromised and considered as potential threats to schools and universities.”

“Schools covered by this ordinance are mandated to cooperate with the CCPO in reviewing and approving all security plans prior to the implementation and commencement of security operations for every school event,” read a portion of the proposed ordinance.

Failure to comply will result in the imposition of a P1,000 fine to the principal or school director for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 for the third offense.

Campus attacks

The councilor reasoned that the ordinance will serve as a tool to prevent violence inside learning institutions similar to what happened at the Ateneo de Manila University last July 2022 when a shooting incident happened and claimed the lives of three people. But students and faculty do not see it as such.

UP Cebu Student Council president Cleisteil Cimafranca said they oppose the proposed ordinance since “attacks” coming from state forces had been experienced on UP Cebu grounds.

“The unwelcomed and unannounced presence of the state forces in full gear has caused mental and emotional distress to the students and faculties and have been subject to psychological sessions,” said Cimafranca.

Cimafranca recalled an incident last June 5, 2020 where police officers arrested seven individuals protesting against the passage of the anti-terrorism bill inside UP Cebu.

Another incident raised by Cimafranca was when members of the Special Weapons and Tactics and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal went inside the UP Cebu campus to respond to an alleged bomb threat.

Cimafranca said the authorities failed to communicate properly with the school administration and “defouled” the UP-Department of National Defense Accord, a pact made in 1989 to keep law enforcement officers out of UP campuses.