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Fr. Jun Mercado OMI

Murder on campus

October 31, 2012 12:57pm

It was a busy Thursday morning at 8 a.m. of October 25th, 2012, when four armed men entered Mindnolia, which was the first Internet cafe in the Mindanao State University campus and the first even in the city of Marawi. According to some written accounts that circulating on the Internet, these hoodlums tied the owner, 44-year-old MSU Professor Othello Cobal, to a chair and shot him in the head.
 
His student assistant, Erwin Diaz (who had just turned 24), who was also acting as the cashier at Mindnolia, was manhandled and also shot. Then the hoodlums set fire to the establishment, together with the bodies of Prof. Othello and Erwin.
 
The Internet cafe was located on the second floor of the Landbank Building in a busy commercial center. The Landbank was still closed, but the two ATMs on the ground floor were functional at that time. In fact, when the murder-arson happened in broad daylight, there were many people queuing on the building's ground floor as it was the release of the DSWD’s 4Ps.
 
Up to this writing, the police and university authorities remain clueless. As usual, the perpetrators remain at large and continue to menace the MSU community with impunity.
 
The MSU community is outraged about the latest brutal double murder and arson that cap the many unsolved cases of banditry, kidnapping, rape, ambuscade, arson and practically all other forms of lawlessness on campus.  The helpless victims have always been the vulnerable members of the faculty and students of the once premier university in Mindanao.
 
The tragedy of all these crimes perpetrated on campus is the fact that to this day, there have been no apprehensions and not even a single suspect has been hauled to the police precinct for investigation or officially charged in any court. The murderers, rapists, arsonists, kidnappers, drug peddlers and drug lords and all sorts of bad elements roam the campus with impunity.  
 
The MSU Alumni Association and concerned students and faculty have written a letter to President Aquino for his office and CHED to directly intervene and secure the campus both for students and faculty.
 
The Alumni Association and concerned MSU personnel have made an attempt to list the series of atrocities happening on campus and they cite the following cases:
  1. Drug dealing and drug use are rampant. Shabu is sold at a low cost and is available in some sari-sari stores inside the campus. The list points out that children of minor age are involved in small-time drug trafficking. Drugs are also sold inside dormitories.
  2. Carrying of firearms is prevalent. Many people, students, politicos and "residents" carry firearms on campus.
  3. In June, one of the dormitories burned down. Authorities immediately ruled out foul play without conducting a thorough investigation. People continue to talk of foul play.
  4. Last August, the ambush of 14 soldiers inside the campus claimed the lives of some soldiers and innocent civilians.
  5. In October, the College of Hotel and Restaurant Management burned to the ground. There have been no clear reports as to the cause of the fire. And as always, it was not investigated properly.
Equally pathetic are the inaction and helplessness of the MSU administration, when the campus practically becomes a "crime laboratory" of sorts. Many alumni and students clamor for decisive action in the face of the rampant crimes on campus. But NO ACTION IS FORTHCOMING, not even a simple statement of concern!
 
And who were Professor Othello Cobal and Erwin Diaz?
 
Students, colleagues and alumni say that Prof. Othello was a great man. He was a former activist and had remained an idealist who tutored promising students, especially the less privileged. He taught them to dream and work hard to realize their dreams. His place, the Internet cafe, was his home, but it was also a sort of "house of wisdom" for the seekers of knowledge and a home too for dreamers and visionaries. 

Erwin had recently arrived from an OJT stint in Singapore. He was a graduating student, with only a few units left. He wanted to become a lawyer so he enrolled in Philosophy. Both were from the same hometown, Alicia. Erwin was a working student who took care of his three siblings: Estrella, 13, Elizabeth, in 3rd year college, and Ellone, in 3rd year high school.
 
The MSU campus is often likened to a microcosm of the emerging "Bangsamoro." It is now sick to the bone and the faculty and students are clamoring for help and intervention from the national government. They are crying out: “Please help save our dear MSU. This so-called ‘Melting Pot’ is indeed already melting!”




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