Progressives condemn dismissal of BSU-ROTC abuse case

By SHAIRA SANTOS
www.nordis.net

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The Democratic and Progressive Alliance for Youth (DAPAY) of Benguet State University (BSU) along with Kabataan Partylist and Anakbayan held a silent protest in front of BSU Administration building to condemn the dismissal of complaints filed by Jezrael Sacpa against alleged abuses perpetrated by Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) officers. Simultaneously, a dialogue with the admin board was attended by the representatives of said organizations on July 4.

HOLD ROTC ACCOUNTABLE. Students of the Benguet State University (BSU) staged a protest action last Julya 4 against the dismissal of complaints against abusive Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) officers. Photo by Shaira Santos

Dismissed case of ROTC abuses

Jezrael Sacpa, former Cadet Officer Candidate Course (COCC) trainee, filed a complaint disclosing the sexual and physical abuses allegedly committed by Emily Sao-anen and Elray Baguiwan, both ROTC officers, on Feb. 16. The alleged abuses happened during the COCC’s training and welcome ceremony held on November 2014.

According to the affidavit filed by Sacpa, said ROTC officers paddled him with wooden rifles along with other COCC trainees. Sacpa added that Baguiwan ordered them to masturbate inside their barracks. Sacpa’s allegations were supported by Brenda Dayao, a BSU student who entered COCC training on June 2014.

Dayao claimed that she also experienced paddling during their training. She added that in September 2014, the ROTC officers woke up Dayao and other COCC trainees and they were given scathing sermons and ordered to do push-ups. Said actions were done because the ROTC officers were angry for being reprimanded by their ROTC alumni.

Sao-anen and Baguiwan filed a counter affidavit denying the allegations of Sacpa and Dayao.

However, the findings written on the joint resolution issued by the Student Arbitration Board last May 25, the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence that will prove alleged sexual and physical abuses.

The admin board wrote, “In the complaint against Sao-anen, it is clear that the complainant was unable to produce quantum of evidences to prove that the said respondent committed a violation of Item 32 of the University Student Code of Conduct and Discipline (USCCD).”

Further, the board said that Dayao’s statement is invalid for she failed to state the exact or approximate date that the incident happened. The board added that Dayao’s name did not appear in the A.Y. ’14 – ’15 COCC List of Enrollees.

“Consequently, not being enrolled in the COCC, she could not have been a trainee. It follows that she could not have been paddled by Sao-anen, and could not have experienced the abuses alleged,” stated in the findings of the board.

Moreover, the board stated that the complaint against Baguiwan does not violate item 26.b of the USCCD or “Act of Lasciviousness: Forcible physical imposition of sexual desire against the will of another.”

“Even assuming that there is truth in the allegations, it does not appear that the directive to the cadets to perform masturbation as due to the sexual desire of Baguiwan on the cadets,”stated by the board.

The board added that there are inconsistencies with Sacpa’s statements. According to Sacpa, the forced masturbation took place on Nov. 2014. However, records show that COCC trainees already graduated on Oct. 2014. Hence, the board assumed that alleged masturbation did not take place during the COCC training.

Progressive organizations’ action

DAPAY along with Kabataan Partylist and Anakbayan expressed their strong disapproval of the dismissal of the complaints. They held a silent protest in front of BSU admin building.

According to Melba Patnaan, DAPAY representative, “Ang purpose ng silent protest and dialogue with the admin is to condemn nga yung dismissal ng case. From the start naman kasi ay investigation kasi nga talamak ito (ROTC abuses). Ang naging tunguhin kasi ni Calora ay hearing to hearing na nagresulta sa pagkadismiss ng case dahil nga sa pagkukulang ng evidence.”

Simultaneous with the silent protest was a dialogue attended by the representatives from DAPAY and other progressive organizations. According to them, they were not able to fully expressed their condemnation because the board members present were impeding them to talk most of the times. Additionally, the board members want to speak with the BSU students only. When the admin staff knew that there were members from the Kabataan and Anakbayan, they started to divert the talk to other topics such as free education.

Patnaan added that though the complaints lack evidences and the witness’ statement showed inconsistencies, it does not mean that alleged abuses were not happening or experienced by the students.

“Sa statement namin, ayaw naming pagsabungin yung mga studyante, ang gusto naming investigation which is impossible on the side of the admin. Tapos dismissed yung kaso so yun, dun nag-start yung protest,” Patnaan said in the interview.

Threat to security

During the silent protest and dialogue with the admin, the security guards of BSU acted hostile. They approach the members of the organization looking for ‘signed permit’ from the admin.

A security guard named Valdez even ordered the students staying near the protesters to walk away. Valdez said, “Lumayo kayo diyan kasi baka magulo pa kayo.”

The guard even forced the protesters and media personnel to show their identification cards claiming that only identified BSU students are allowed inside the school premise. They were even taking photos of the members of the progressive organizations with their cellphones and digital cameras that were submitted inside the Admin building.

After the silent protest, the group headed to the location of the ongoing dialogue while being followed by three to four security guards. The group was not allowed to enter the building and was forced to stay outside, still being watched by the guards. # nordis.net

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