Wednesday, August 7, 2013

U.P. Professor shoots a student dead: Remembering a death

Photograph by: Chanda R. Shahani
With demand for reforms intensified and student activism was defined by frequent altercations with authorities, the atmosphere within the University of the Philippines Diliman was chaotic to some extent. One must note however that at this point in UP’s history, students were rallying because of gasoline prices.

Student organizations, at the time, were actively involved with issues concerning the Philippines and were often very enthusiastic about their advocacies. UP later on came to be known for its activism whatever issue it may be.

 It was February 1, 1971 when students decided to do a massive human blockade to keep vehicles from entering the university. By 9 AM student leaders started rallying their fellow students to join the protest and a few hours later, the UP Security Force arrived at the scene acting on complaints from professors and residents of the area. As one can imagine there was a scuffle right at the University Avenue with students behind pillboxes and in a heated argument with university security.

Although activism at the time was not only popular but necessary, there were still those with dissenting opinion and those who did not want to involve themselves in the protests. One of these people is a professor of the Mathematics Department. Prof. Inocente Campos is known for his eccentricities and is infamous among students because he kept on ignoring boycotts –on three occasions to be exact.

The professor tangled with student activists who wanted to go inside his classroom to persuade the class in joining the respective rallies. In one occasion, Prof. Campos fired three warning shots to drive away student activists out of his classroom. Despite his rather eccentric nature, there is no question that Prof. Campos is a dedicated teacher. In fact, he believed that teaching was a sacred responsibility as well as a public duty.

On that day, the professor was on his way to the university to conduct a class since the University Secretary’s office did not suspend classes. Upon entering the first checkpoint, the professor slowed down but he was not blocked by the students. However, someone recognized him and soon, students started throwing pillboxes at his car. He continued driving but one of the tires was damaged and his car stopped. By then, students advanced toward the teacher as he got out of the car.

According to records, he put on his vest and took his shotgun from the back seat then tried to fire it to scare the activists. The gun however was jammed so the professor took out his .22 caliber rifle and started shooting. He did not stop firing and at the heat of the moment drew his revolver and fired more shots. Minutes after the shooting, Prof. Campos was arrested by the police and brought to the Quezon City police station.

As a result of this untoward incident, a student by the name of Pastor “Sonny” Mesina Jr. was seriously wounded. He was rushed to the UP Infirmary and was later transferred to the Veterans’ Memorial Hospital located just a few minutes away from the university. He however did not survive and died four days later.

It is important to note that while many of Mesina’s peers were both angered and saddened by the incident, his death became a crucial factor in latter developments because it turned the protests for gasoline price increase into a massive protest against military intrusion. Pastor Mesina Jr.’s may not be remembered by many but the plaque in remembrance of the student can still be seen today. The plaque was placed right where he fell when he was shot by the irate professor.

Because of the rich history of the university, many incidents are no longer remembered but many of Mesina’s peers will always have a vivid picture of the shooting.

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