A wrong way to celebrate a momentous event.
Last Tuesday, February 6, 2018, it was reported that San Beda College was conferred with a “university” status by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“CHED welcomes the entry of San Beda College to the ranks of Philippine universities that will provide quality teaching and research, and produce the critical human resources needed by rapidly developing [countries] like the Philippines,” CHED officer-in-charge Prospero de Vera III said in a statement confirming the grant of university status to San Beda.
The following day, February 7, 2018, several students complained that they were being barred from going out of the San Beda campus located in Mendiola, Manila City.
Jonas Gan shared photos of the campus lockdown in San Beda. In his caption, Gan, a certified Bedan and a former officer of the San Beda Debate Society, claimed that students were forced to stay inside the school premises and were being required to participate in the activities celebrating the approval of university status to the school.
Gan’s post has been shared more than one thousand times and has continuously gained attention from netizens.
Gan also shared a photo of the formal letter dated February 7, 2018 by the San Beda Student Council, College of Arts and Science (CAS) asking school authorities to allow CAS students to exit the campus. The said letter was addressed to the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Tessie R. Da Jose.
In its assertive stance, the student council contended that the campus-wide lockdown is detrimental to the lives of the students and invoked the student’s freedom to choose whether to attend or participate in a non-academic, extra-curricular school activity or not.
“This program was unannounced and is currently hindering students from attending to pertinent personal matters. Furthermore, students have the liberty to decide whether to attend a school function or not,” the council said.
In his latest update, Gan claimed that the officers of the student council are now being called to the dean’s office because of their defiant position yesterday.
Several commenters on Gan’s post pointed out the irony on treating the students like kids or elementary students just after it became a university.
While some suggest that the university should be held liable for illegal detention.
However, in a strictly legal sense, the crime that might have been committed here by the school officials is grave coercion. Under the Revised Penal Code, a person is guilty of grave coercion if that person, without authority of law, shall by means of violence, threat or intimidation, prevent another from doing something not prohibited by law, or compel him to do something against his will.
Whether criminally liable or not, it is just plain wrong for San Beda to prevent or restrict its students to go out of the school premises specially that the reason for the lockdown is to force them to attend a school activity.
As a newly-conferred university, San Beda should realize that campus freedom and the recognition of the student’s democratic rights are principles that should be ingrained to its students.
But in transforming the entire campus into a virtual military garrison where the student’s liberty and freedom of choice are blatantly curtailed, San Beda began its first day as a university on a wrong note.