Rape suspect arrested, but UPLB community still doesn't feel safe

MANILA, Philippines – The Laguna police arrested early Friday morning, October 17, the tricycle driver who allegedly raped a student of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños.

The victim positively identified Jose Montecillo, who was caught by the authorities at his relative’s house in Calauan town, also in Laguna, where he went hiding. 

Students and residents remain apprehensive, however. The incident happened 3 years after another UPLB student, Grace Cebanico, was raped and found dead in the same area, along the IPB road, just outside the UPLB campus. 

According to them, security forces only increase whenever criminal incidents take place, and eventually wane in a few weeks’ time.

Campus security

According to UPLB Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Dr Enrique Tolentino, the university has put in place mechanisms to ensure security within the campus.

In 2012, UPLB, in partnership with the local police, local government unit, and an NGO called "PEACE" launched "UPLB Ko, Bantay Ko," a security summit aimed at arming students and staff with proper information and training on security.

The university official also said that they are working on the possible augmentation of security personnel of the campus.

Currently, UPLB employs 78 guards, 41 Community Service Brigade (CSB) members, and 42 university police.  

In order to strengthen security within the campus, Tolentino filed a request to hire 21 additional guards and 10 CSB members. By getting additional security personnel, Tolentino said that the guards and police will be able to cover and closely monitor more areas within and around the campus.

Outside campus

However, Tolentino said that the IPB road remains a blind spot for the university since it is located outside the campus. 

The “long and lonely" IPB road, as described by Calabarzon Chief Superintendent Jesus Gatchalian, connects Barangay Maahas to both the UPLB campus and Barangay Putho-tuntungin. Residents and students said that the street is usually dark and empty.

Following the rape incident involving Cebanico in 2011, the local government unit ordered the set up of new street lights along the road. 

However, according to Tolentino, the street lights were destroyed by the strong winds brought by Typhoon Glenda last July. Consequently, the materials were stolen by still unidentified individuals. 

The Calabarzon police chief ordered the Laguna command to coordinate with UP officials and the provincial and local governments to find ways in order to deter similar incidents in the future.

Gatchalian also said the local police will start and organize a database containing information on the tricycle drivers plying the area.

Papailawan din ule ang daan, so the students will feel safe (We will light up the road again so the students will feel safe),” Gatchalian said. – Rappler.com 

Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.