MANILA, Aug 22 (Mabuhay) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) has reminded students to take extra precaution, especially when approached by strangers.

BACK TO SCHOOL. Parents and learners flock at the gate of Diosdado P. Macapagal Elementary School in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, as classes for the school year 2022-2023 open on Monday (Aug. 22, 2022). The government has put in place health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus in schools as in-person classes resumed more than two years since the onset of the pandemic. (MNS photo)

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. made this remark as face-to-face classes for the school year 2022-2023 officially resumed, as the police force steps up its watch against criminals and drug peddlers preying on students.

“For the PDEG (PNP Drug Enforcement Group), I have instructions to them na we do not only concentrate doon sa arrest ng mga drug pushers, drug users but we need to bring our war on drugs doon sa awareness ng bawat Pilipino, bawat community, bawat estudyante para sa ganun ay nalalaman ho ng lahat kung ano yung masamang epekto ng droga sa bawat Pilipino na gagamit or mae-engganyo na gagamit,” he said in a press briefing shortly after the flag-raising rites in Camp Crame.

Azurin also ordered police officers to intensify visibility in schools and always be prepared to respond to any request for police assistance, especially from students, teachers, and parents.

“We have already set the operational guidelines to ensure peace and order and public safety during the opening of classes and the succeeding school days. Thus, my instruction was to intensify law enforcement activities in learning institutions, transport hubs, and places of convergence to suppress any form of criminality like theft and robbery where children and parents can be vulnerable victims,” said Azurin.

He also said they are coordinating with schools to allow police officers to join orientations for students for their information dissemination drives.

“We also directed our PNP personnel to conduct orientation briefings on school campuses so that the students, the parents and the teachers would know the areas that most likely they would avoid so that they will not be victims of any crimes specifically street crime,” he told reporters.

A total of 23,653 police personnel were deployed in strategic locations around the country.

Some 7,509 PNP Covid-19 patrollers have been activated to monitor public areas and make sure that minimum public health standard is strictly observed in light of the ongoing pandemic.

“We have directed police stations to conduct mobile and foot patrols along major routes and highways leading to all learning institutions and within the immediate vicinity of school premises to monitor and evaluate the daily activities,” Azurin said.

While reminding police officers that they are only allowed outside school premises, Azurin said they can provide assistance to incidents inside schools if needed.

“Our PNP are there to enforce the law, to prevent any occurrence of crimes so I don’t see any reason bakit hindi i-allow ang ating mga pulis (why they will not allow our cops) within the premises or inside school campuses,” he added.

Department Order No. 32 issued by the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2019 states that “schools, as a general rule, should be free from the presence of armed combatants, whether they be from government forces or armed groups.”

“Armed force protection units from government forces, if needed, shall be situated proximate to the school and not inside the school,” it added.

He also ordered the Highway Patrol Group to intensify patrols and ensure that public transport vehicles plying the streets are authorized to prevent students from hailing colorum vehicles.

“We encourage all our students to check what they are riding and then take note of the plate number, what is the name of the taxi or what is the name of the public transport they are riding” he added.

In the case of stranded students, Azurin said the PNP is ready to deploy necessary vehicles for free rides but said it will take a cue from the Department of Transportation and the DepEd regarding the need for it.

“Although we do not foresee any serious security concern with the opening of classes, PNP Units are constantly on the lookout for the perennial peace and order issues associated with the occasion such as traffic congestion, stranded commuters, crowding, non-observance of public health standards, street crime, fraternity or gang violence, and campus infiltration by communist front organizations,” he noted. (MNS)