Ilocandia Rumblings:Schools are tool for State repression

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

I can’t help but to compare how former University of Northern Philippines (UNP) Vice President and Campus Security Director Jimmy Soria relate with progressive youth groups with how the current Director, Nolito Ragunjan, relates with these groups.

I believe that the stark contrast stems from the background of the two, Prof. Soria being a student leader and academician most of his life while Dir. Ragunjan came from the military before shifting to teaching.

Prof. Jimmy Soria was strict with policies but listens to reason and encourages critical thinking. He was the one who encouraged us to pursue the formation of the Inter-Fraternity Council. He even let his son, my longtime friend and fellow Student Council Officer Jake Soria join us in actions denouncing or opposing administration policies then.

On the other hand, Dir. Ragunjan is the opposite. Muscle flexing comes first. The years of military training and connections, and inclination to please the powers that be have shaped him into someone who is hell bent on maligning progressive organizations and individuals.

Members of the youth group Anakbayan Ilocos were temporarily detained, harassed and their membership form confiscated by the campus security today. They were on their way out after the forum on Gat Andres Bonifacio’s relevance and heroism organized by the College of Social Work. Under his command, security guards detained the group, took their names and seized their documents. When the group asked for Ragunjan’s name, he refused to identify himself.

One of the members called me and asked for legal assistance so I called human rights lawyer Atty. Randy Kinaud, he instructed us to document the event, asked for a letter/receipt of the violation(s) and the things the campus security confiscated duly signed by Dir. Ragunjan. When I called back and requested to speak to him to relay our lawyer’s instructions, he refused and eventually refrained from giving receipt.

I can’t help but raise the question why he refused to give his name and talked to us if his actions were within the bounds of the law and campus security policies? Why confiscate something that is not contraband and refuse to give a receipt? Why can’t he even issue a document citing the “violations”of the group?

The harassment experienced by members of Anakbayan today speaks loudly of the repressive campus security under Ragunjan’s leadership. However, this is but one of the actions he has taken against progressives. The director’s stint has been marred with similar incidents – harassing student leaders and sometimes even working with the military to monitor progressive individuals. Each action oozing with the military mark, the same pattern state armed agents use to harass, threaten and intimidate activists.

In 2008, Ragunjan filed a trumped-up charge of theft against Tandem Editor-in-Chief Ma. Criselda Diocena. The case and UNP’s motion for reconsideration was dismissed by the City Prosecutor for lack of merit.

He likewise ordered his men to monitor my activities in the campus when I was employed in 2010-2011. He didn’t bat an eyelash when I asked him why I was put under constant watch – he said that his contacts from the military asked him to do so and knowing my political background he has to comply. This was the same period when I received death threats through text messages believed to be from agents of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in 2014. He was also the one who pressured students from the political science program to back-out from the play they co-produced with Kabataan Partylist, Karatula and Anakbayan. The play was also related to the celebration of Bonifacio’s birth and heroism.

The event is equally alarming under the context of President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of a nation-wide crackdown of people’s organizations critical to his administration’s anti-people policies and programs.

In general, this event proved that schools are undeniably tools of state violence and repression. I am not sure whether there is an explicit policy of the UNP leadership to suppress progressives and critical thinking, but what is certain is their head of campus security has Draconian tendencies that deliberately deters the exercise of democratic rights of students and cultivate critical thinking. This harassment must not be allowed, it should be condemned and opposed by students, their leaders and progressives in the university.

Likewise, I encourage the group to file the appropriate complaint and use all forms to expose this transgression. It is also high-time for Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago and other members of the Makabayan bloc to look into this. # nordis.net

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