Spies and government surveillance

A month or so ago, news broke of suspicious surveillance being conducted with a certain and specified van with plate number UDU 234 on students of UP Diliman, particularly on students of the College of Mass Communication.¬†Various instances of the van’s suspicious activities (parking near informal student gatherings/assemblies, following or parking near locations of student activists) on different parts of the Diliman campus have been reported over the months. The CMC Student Council and a couple of organizations in Mass Comm went on to have a press conference condemning such surveillance in light of the fresh implementation of the Human Security Act.

Last Tuesday, we saw the particular van with dark-tinted windows, with plate number UDU 234 parked on the driveway of Vinzons Hall–the seat of the University Student Council, the Student Regent and a traditional tambayan of activists. Together with some of my colleagues and Shan Abdulwahid, present Chairperson of the University Student Council, we approached the van with the intention of confronting the persons inside.

While I took pictures of the van, my colleagues and Shan tried to peek into the heavily-tinted windows of the van, and tapped the vehicle for a couple of minutes to call the attention of whoever were inside.

We were being ignored for quite a while, which was weird. The typical reaction by innocent people to what we were doing was direct confrontation. Instead, we were being lead to frustration and into believing that no one was inside. We couldn’t be too sure, since the van was heavily tinted and we could barely see through the windows. After a few minutes, the front passenger window rolled down a few inches. A man then asked what was wrong. We asked the man to come down and talk with us. He refused. What’s even more suspicious was that he refused to be recognized by hanging a dark jacket between him and the window. When we jokingly asked him to show us his face, he ignored us. When he was asked what he was doing there, and why he was violating a verbal agreement not to roam around UP, he gave a lame excuse that he and his companions (who we never got to see) were picking up someone from the College of Law–which, by the way, was three blocks away. Without prolonging the confrontation too much, we allowed the man and the van to leave. From Vinzons Hill, we watched the van go towards the direction of the School of Economics. Contrary to his reasoning earlier, however, the van eventually went past the College of Law and went straight out of UP.

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