THE WHOLE nation was on red alert after an attempt to bomb key places in Makati City was spoiled just before the New Year. Most people feared that the threats would mean the repeat of the 2000 Rizal Day bombings that killed 18 persons and injured more than a hundred. But, fortunately, Filipinos celebrated New Year without terror.

As terrorism threatened the world, security measures in the country were tightened, especially in vital installations like airports and railway stations, public places and private institutions.

For UST, however, lack of resources and manpower, easy public access, and perhaps, student negligence make the campus prone and inviting to crimes.

Annually, the Security Office experiences a deluge of complaints about bag snatching, construction pilferage, mobile phone robbery, and burglary, in and outside the school premises.

At least 10 petty crime incidents also flooded the pages of the Varsitarian for the school year 2000-2001. The Security Office, however, boasts of arresting more than 10 perpetrators for this school year, including a Faculty of Engineering student who was accused of stealing three mobile phones from students playing in the Engineering Sports Complex.

According to Office for Student Affairs-Student Welfare Development Board (OSA-SWDB) director Zenaida Famorca, the case has not yet been resolved although the student had dropped from school.

While the Security Office’s efforts are reassuring, it only shows that thieves, outsider or Thomasians, continue to thrive in UST grounds.

Thomasians, however, are hoping for a less dangerous 2002. With the hiring of 15 more security guards and the implementation of tighter security measures, the question whether the University’s security system is capable of making the school a safer ground awaits to be answered.

Public access

The UST grounds seem to be an inviting place for campus thieves. Outsiders come in and out of the campus, often making an excuse of going to the Santissimo Rosario Parish Church (UST Chapel) or the University of Santo Tomas Hospital (USTH).

Due to easy public access to the campus, it is not surprising that cases of theft occur on campus, particularly in the pavilions and parks. Students particularly from the Faculty of Arts and Letters were reportedly robbed of mobile phones at the pavilion in front of St. Raymund’s Bldg., outside the Central Library, and at the Colayco Park.

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Hilario Enriquez, a guard stationed at the Faculty of Civil Law entrance of the Main Bldg., said that many students, particularly women, complain that they lost their mobile phones in the comfort rooms. Enriquez, however, claimed that male guards could not enter the women’s comfort rooms except for female guards, who are very few.

“Kaya nga tinatanong namin ang mga outsiders kung saan talaga sila pupunta at kung ano talaga ang gagawin nila rito (para masigurado kung magnanakaw nga),” Enriquez said.

Another Main Bldg. guard, Joel Plasencia, said that they had seized a drug-crazed man carrying a shotgun inside the campus last year.

Office for Community Development (OCD) director Joey Cruz said the flow of people coming in the University could not be controlled.

“Public access to the church and the hospital could not be limited because having these places is an integral part of the community services of the University,” Prof. Cruz said.

Norman Lahera, a senior University guard for five years, said that UST does not seem to be a private school anymore because of its accessibility. He said that the problem could be remedied if a valid UST identification card would be presented right at the España, Dapitan, P. Noval, and A.H. Lacson gates.

Cruz also stressed that the University should more strictly implement the wearing of the I.D. not only inside, but also outside of the school buildings.

However, campus thieves are wiser than expected. Several incidents reported that thieves caught in the act were not only wearing UST uniforms but also falsified I.D.s. Security officials confirmed.

If the number of people entering the campus could not be controlled, their mobility, on the other hand, could be limited through the construction of a separate entrance for the church and the hospital, Cruz said.

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Resources

While UST remains an easy target for campus thieves, inadequate security measures and resources seem to make the school more prone to petty crimes.

Enriquez said that the number of security guards in the campus is insufficient, particularly during school activities where the University grounds become thickly populated with students and outsiders.

At present, a total of 150 guards, including those assigned at the USTH, are protecting the University for a minimum wage of P 256 a day.

Security Office Chief-in-Charge Alfredo Mifa said, 50 guards go on duty throughout the campus starting 6 a.m. while 31 guards work in the next shift from 2 pm to 10 pm. The number of guards has been reduced for the second shift since most of the students would have already left the campus by that time, Mifa said.

The guards usually carry a nightstick, a flashlight, and a radio. Guards stationed at España and P. Noval entrance gates have guns and tear gases. “’Yung mga assigned lang sa strategic and sensitive places ang binibigyan ng baril, tear gas, at radio,” Mifa explained, referring to the University’s pedestrian entrance gates.

Mifa said that a new security measure is being implemented during dismissal at night. Two guards are stationed at the pedestrian gates of UST to dissuade probable thieves from entering the campus.

Aside from the lack of manpower, some guards now seldom inspect bags and vehicle hoods.

“At random na lang ang inspection kasi tinitingnan na lang namin kung kahina-hinala ang mga outsiders at ‘pag may sticker ang sasakyan,” Plasencia said. He added that suspicious-looking outsiders who carry big bags and who cannot readily state their purpose inside the University are the ones who are being inspected.

Mifa attributed this problem to the guards’ inconsistency in implementing security measures.

Guards are given seminars once every two years that include training in burglary measures, bomb threats, security courtesy, discipline, and other defense tactics.

Cooperation

In a random interview conducted by the Varsitarian, most students find the school’s security measures defective. Also, they do not feel safe even inside UST. Others also complained some guards are not helpful.

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But, Mifa said that students should cooperate with the school’s security force. By cooperation, Mifa means students must be vigilant themselves and they must report immediately any untoward incidents.

Ramon Paolo Manlutac, a third-year Advertising student, said he left his file case in a grassy area behind the library last semester. Less than 10 minutes, he came back but his file case was gone.

On the other hand, College of Architecture student Maria Monica Camille Ortega found her backpack pocket open and her wallet and mobile phone gone just outside the Dapitan entrance gate last year. She reported the incident to the guards who simply said they could no longer track the robber because the place was too crowded.

Meanwhile, Gretchen Villamor, a fourth year Hotel and Restaurant Management student, lost two mobile phones on separate incidents inside and near the campus premises last year. However, she did not report the theft to the guards.

According to Enriquez, some students may be blamed for being robbed because of their negligence and carelessness. Some students would report the incident too late, 10-15 minutes after the robbers have already escaped.

The Security Office was supposed to use the completed “manual of procedure”, which contains the University’s security policies and regulations, for this school year. The manual was a project of former Security Office detachment commander Norberto Brosas during his term. However, Mifa confirmed that Brosas took the manual with him when he left his post. The Varsitarian attempted to interview newly installed detachment commander Eusebie Dato but the latter refused to comment on the issue.

The lack of equipment may also contribute to an ineffective performance by the University’s security force.

Undoubtedly, campus security cannot solely depend on the University Security Office. Cooperation between security force, key UST officials and the students themselves may be the best defense against petty crimes.

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