EDITORIAL - Arrest at UP

The Philippine Star

The housekeeper’s employment ended in 2013, and the defendant has not been notified that a complaint had been filed against her for alleged failure to remit employer’s contributions to the Social Security System. This is according to Melania Flores, a professor of Philippine literature at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, who also said she had already cleared the issue with the SSS.

Yet last Monday, police arrested Flores at her home inside the UP Diliman campus on charges of violating Section 28 of Republic Act 11199, the Social Security Act of 2018 – an offense that could put her behind bars for up to six years. The arrest was made on the strength of a warrant issued by Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 230, upon the request of the QC Police District.

The QCPD and the Philippine National Police maintain that the arrest was aboveboard. But Flores said the arresting police officers were not in uniform and had pretended to be employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. UP Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo also said the arrest inside the campus without prior notification to the university administration, and without other UP faculty or officials as witnesses, violated a 1992 agreement between UP and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The DILG, now under new leadership, should clarify the status of this agreement, which is meant to promote academic freedom. A similar accord was forged in 1989 with the Department of National Defense, restricting the military to “hot pursuit” operations when entering UP campuses. But the DND scrapped the agreement in 2021. Has the accord with the DILG also been scrapped?

Flores, a former head of the All-UP Academic Employees Union, was held at Camp Karingal, headquarters of the QCPD, until she posted bail of P72,000. QCPD chief Brig. Gen. Nicolas Torre III has said that his men introduced themselves properly and read Flores her Miranda rights, and were merely carrying out a court order. “UP should be thankful to us that we removed a criminal in their midst,” Torre was quoted as saying in an interview.

The DILG may have to remind Torre that guilt must first be established before someone can be branded as a criminal. At the same time, the DILG must clarify the guidelines on the conduct of police operations within the state university known for its tradition of student activism. The clarification is needed particularly because Torre said she learned from the police that more will be arrested. If the government insists that such arrests are aboveboard, it should ensure that processes set by law or mutually agreed upon are observed.



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