UP science departments chafed by military’s hypothetical ‘shabu lab’ remark

January 21, 2021 - 5:47 PM
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Edgard Arevalo
AFP spokesperson Edgard Arevalo was slammed by Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of the Philippines. (The STAR/UPD file photos)

The science departments of the University of the Philippines denounced the military for suggesting there could be illegal drug operations within the premier university to justify the termination of their accord with them.

The longstanding 1989 accord between UP and the Department of National Defense was suddenly terminated on January 15 via a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, citing claims that the university became a hotbed for the recruitment of communist rebels.

The historic deal signed by then UP President Jose Abueva and Defense chief Fidel Ramos 30 years ago has prohibited state forces from entering UP campuses without the permission of the school administration.

Exceptions warranting state forces’ presence cover hot pursuit operations and similar emergency cases, and if UP officials requested their assistance.

In an effort to justify the abrupt gesture at a briefing on Wednesday, January 20, Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the armed forces, presented a hypothetical situation about discovering a meth lab inside UP.

“Paano kung may shabu lab sa loob ng UP? Kailangan pa magpaalam bago pumasok doon? Walang sinasabi sa court na kailangan pa may additional step,” Arevalo said.

He further ventured that with the pact in place, illegal drugs could proliferate on campus.

“Kung kayo ay nangangamba na may shabu na makakarating sa inyong anak, hahayaan niyo bang makatakas ang ating huhuliin dahil lang kailangan natin magpaalam sa isang administrasyon?” Arevalo said.

The military official might have missed, however, the legal procedure involving the issuance of warrants and the cases cited in the accord wherein law enforcement can enter.

No shabu lab

The UP-Diliman Institute of Chemistry and the UPD Department of Chemical Engineering issued separate statements later that day where they denied AFP’s reference of the illegal drug war to the abrogation issue.

UPD’s Institute of Chemistry stressed to Arevalo that they are fully compliant with the policies of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

“The Institute of Chemistry does not operate shabu laboratories and all controlled and restricted substances are handled in full compliance to PNP and PDEA policies. Our faculty adhere to true ideals of education as we aim to inspire students, the industry, and the community, to channel chemical know-how for the benefit of the country,” it said.

The organization also warned the military official against making “baseless and unfounded accusations” in public.

“We wish to remind AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo that the University of the Philippines, as a premiere institution, upholds the highest professional standards at all times. It is in this context that we caution against throwing baseless and unfounded accusations,” it said.

The UPD chemical engineering department likewise criticized Arevalo’s introduction of the idea of a meth lab inside the campus.

The department also emphasized that it makes sure to acquire necessary permits in their research activities.

“All our academic and research activities inside the campus, which use PNP-controlled substances, are fully compliant with the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 9516,” the statement read.

“The acquisition of necessary permits regardless of the amount of chemical reagents used in the laboratories has oftentimes delayed the implementation of our research, but we always FOLLOW THE LAW,” it added.

Moreover, the university’s science branches also warned Arevalo against allusions in an attempt to draw parallels with the deadly and controversial drug war.

Drugs at UP but not at PNP, AFP bases

Some alumni recalled previous incidents where illegal narcotics were found in the very headquarters and compounds run by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

One Twitter user, meanwhile, shared photos of what a typical science laboratory at UP looks like as proof of how it is nearly impossible to run illegal meth experiments there.

Other commenters noted that authorities can enter if they have warrants to present to UP officials.

“They can always make inform UP Admin if they have a search or arrest warrant. Also that’s police jurisdiction not AFP,” one user wrote.