Thomasians, as well as other people, are no strangers to the merciless perils that abound in the city.

And yet, only two policemen are deputized on Dapitan ST. and Arsenio H. Lacson Ave. to protect thousands of students and faculty members from dangers that could strike anytime. And with the heightening street crimes in the vicinity, Thomasians are left alone to fend for themselves against criminals stalking students when they step outside the University walls.

The recent killing of Nursing sophomore Jef Marty Longyapon by hold-up men last month and the several reported robberies around the school’s periphery have clearly raised controversies about the capability of the authorities to maintain a safe and secure environment in and around UST.

University Belt Precinct commander Bernardino Cubacub maintained that he could not deploy more policemen around UST because they are already undermanned.

“Kulang kami sa tao, hindi naman puwedeng UST lang ang babantayan namin, marami ring paaralan sa (U-Belt) area,” Cubacub told the Varsitarian.

He said although 20 policemen from various police community precincts are deployed in the corner of P. Noval and España, they are more for anti-riot purposes.

Currently, U-Belt police has a police-civilian ratio of one to 1,000.

UST Security Forces detachment commander Clemente Dingayan said they have assigned two security guards everyday, from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., to patrol the streets of Lacson, España, Dapitan, and P. Noval since Nov. 7—a first because UST relies mostly on the efforts of the police and barangay tanods to take care of the outside areas.

But Dingayan said they do not dispatch patrol guards after 9:30 p.m. because the campus is fully vacated by that time.

“We were forced to put our own guards when we learned the police and the barangay tanods were not doing their job,” Dingayan said. “UST was willing to spend more money just to secure the outside perimeter.”

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The Varsitarian tried to reach UST Secretary General Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P. but he was unavailable.

Not enough

The Security Force has three shifts daily: from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. More than 60 guards are deployed in the morning shift, 40 in the second shift, and 17 in the graveyard shift.

But even with UST security personnel, the periphery of the campus is not completely covered.

“Some areas (in UST) do not have any guards by 6 p.m. anymore,” Dingayan said. “Ideally, we need 114 personnel to tightly guard (all the areas).”

Currently, there are 104 security personnel hired by the University from the Security and Credit Investigation Inc. (SCII), excluding the 48 based on the UST Hospital (USTH).

“They (guards in USTH) are under a different contract because the hospital is (a separate entity),” Dingayan told the Varsitarian.

Five civilian operatives are also assigned inside the University to watch out for possible incidents.

“Maraming outsider sa may Engineering complex. Kunwari nanonood lang ng mga P.E. pero nangunguha na pala ng mga bag,” Dingayan said.

Adding more security guards to patrol the outside periphery was never out of the question. The budget, however, is one constraint.

“Assigning more guards outside means removing some from the inside. And it is not easy to hire new ones because it would entail more expenses,” Dingayan said.

He said they are coordinating with barangays, schools, and bus terminals near UST.

Brgy. 471 chairwoman Zenaida Matias pledges a more active watch in her jurisdiction.

“It’s part of my duty to take care of the areas near UST. I’m trying my best to protect (the students) and minimize the incidents,” Matias told the Varsitarian.

Parts of Matias’ area of responsibility are the streets of Dapitan, Concepcion, Alfredo, Gelinos, Antonio, Forbes, and Laong Laan.

Matias, whose son is a sophomore student in UST, said she and her 12 barangay tanods have coordinated with the University of Perpetual Help (UPH) in maintaining security in the area.

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She said UPH’s guards patrol from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. while two of her tanods are assigned from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. But money, again, is a problem.

“As much as we want to assign all the tanods for 24 hours, we can’t because they won’t survive, especially with a P400 a month as salary,” Matias explained. “I can’t make (the patrolling) compulsory since all of them (tanods) are only volunteers.

The salary of the tanods is small, being mere police supplements, Matias said.

Brgy. 490 chairman Abe Sato Domingo, meanwhile, assigns three tanods to patrol the areas of Lacson, Dapitan, Dos Castillas, Dimasalang, and Laong Laan from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. to watch out for malefactors.

Sato Domingo feels three tanods are not enough to safeguard the barangay’s areas of responsibility.

“Kulang talaga yung tatlong tanod, gusto ko sana 10 kada gabi yung rumo-ronda, kaso ‘di talaga kaya ng budget namin,” he said. “Tapos P300 lang kada buwan yung sinusuweldo nila.”

Sato Domingo advised students to be cautious of their surroundings because mobile phone snatching, especially on Lacson, has become rampant.

Food establishments near UST like Wendy’s, Burger King, and Chowking have also been tapped to ensure the safety and security of the students even though it is not exactly their job.

“Madalas din kasi nagkakaroon ng mga insidente sa mga kainan where Thomasians are involved.” Dingayan explained.

Recently, suspected frat members attacked an Engineering student, thinking he was a member of a rival fraternity, last month in front of Wendy’s Dapitan. “Kitang-kita na ng security guard ng Wendy’s na binubugbog, wala pa ring pakialam,” Dingayan said.

Aside from budget constraints, there are guards who are on sickbay. Presently, UST Security Force does not have a single reserve.

“Kulang talaga kami sa tao, napipilitan mag-overtime yung iba. Kapag walang kapalit, automatic (overtime) na,” guard Larry Custodio said.

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Furthermore, some security guards, who are mostly criminology graduates, shift to other professions after a few years of service in UST.

“We can’t blame them for pursuing what they really want,” Dingayan said.

The manpower setback, however, has already been brought up to the UST administration, according to Dingayan.

Pulling out all the stops

Besides coordinating with other authorities, other security measures are being pursued, like the maintenance of proper lighting facilities.

Dingayan said they are repairing the broken street lights outside the University with the help of the Manila City Hall engineer Jocelyn Sandoval, whose son is a high-school student in UST.

Light posts on Lacson and España, considered as hotspots, have already been repaired while light installation on Dapitan and P. Noval streets are on-going. Trees blocking several light posts around the University have also been cut down.

Security commissioner Fr. Melchor Saria, O.P. has reportedly proposed the implementation of a media channel where all the schools, barangays, and other establishments tapped by UST can communicate with each other.

The recent successive incidents of criminality around UST should provide valuable but costly lessons.

“In any place, there will always be petty crimes. UST, the police, and the barangays should all help hand-in-hand to prevent any more incidents,” Matias said.

Steps have been taken by the University to ensure the safety and security of the entire UST community inside and out of the University, but are all of these enough?

Dingayan says there is really no hitch in UST’s campus security.

“I do not see any problem (inside). We just do not have any control of what’s happening outside,” he said. “What we are doing right now are all preventive efforts. We just need to be vigilant and religious in protecting the University.” With reports from Czeriza Shennille S. Valencia

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