MEGAFORCE INTEGRATED Security Agency (MISA) officially took over Ateneo security last September 3, formally replacing Leopard Security and Investigation Agency (LSIA) despite issues that surrounded the change.
LSIA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jose Poe III said Ateneo President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ “gently [turned] down” LSIA’s appeal for a reconsideration of the administration’s decision last August 25.
“This decision does not in any way suggest that Leopard’s service was unsatisfactory these last nine years nor does it question its track record within and outside the Loyola campus,” Villarin stated.
The appeal was filed last July 20, a day after the security change was announced. It was anchored on the agency’s overall “satisfactory” performance rating in Ateneo.
“We focused our appeal on the financial factor or price. We requested for the privilege of ‘equity of the incumbent’ and we offered to match the price of the other company,” Poe said. The equity of the incumbent entails the privileging of the current company during bidding.
“We also offered to do individual performance evaluation for the entire guard force with the end in view of keeping all the good guards and replacing only the underperforming guards,” he added.
Evaluations and proposals
In an earlier interview, Villarin said that LSIA had never been evaluated, and said that the school’s system for evaluating security agencies should be professionalized as it had been “neglected.”
Vice President for Administration and Planning Edna Franco said that the bidding process every three years is a standard for most organizations.
Poe added that some companies find it a good business practice to conduct a periodic “market check.”
He said, however, that this does not necessarily entail or result in changing security providers.
Franco said she was not sure why no evaluations had been held. “I’m new in my job, Fr. Jett is new, Mr. [Jose Arnulfo] Batac is new, so I wouldn’t venture on speculating what even happened. It could be that the evaluation was more on the year-to-year… or we just took it for granted.”
Poe, however, said that over the nine-year stay of LSIA, the school had received several proposals from other security companies “both solicited and unsolicited.”
He said that these proposals became a basis for the rectifications in the agreements between Ateneo and LSIA, factoring in “additional or value-added services to update and improve [LSIA’s] services to the Ateneo.”
He added that these improvements can be considered as alternatives to a formal bidding process.
“One does not have to change providers every three years. I would go even further to say that there are more advantages than disadvantages to a long-term contract,” Poe said, adding that it is “highly doable” to maintain a high level of security service without changing providers.
MISA Commander and Area Supervisor Jun Deiparine said that the Ateneo can expect a higher quality of service to fulfill the standards of the university.
The new agency deployed less than 160 guards, to accommodate a number of personnel from LSIA who may consider applying in MISA and be retained in the school.
Franco said arrangements have been made. “Absorb is not the right term, but reemploy… I think one of the things that [LSIA has] requested is for some of the guards, who may be interested in being retained in Ateneo… [to] apply [to] Megaforce.”
As of press time, almost 30 guards from LSIA have already sought reemployment in MISA.
Deiparine said that MISA’s primary goal is to watch over the welfare of the Ateneo community, and that it is their duty to protect people and property while establishing a “harmonious relationship” with members of the community.
“Students are clients,” he said. “Kayo ang boss namin. Kung wala kayo, wala kami (You are our bosses. Without you, we won’t be here).”
Deiparine ordered the new guards to be friendly to the students without compromising quality service.
Double-posting took place from August 29 to September 2, during which LSIA guards guided their MISA counterparts in actual work.
Evaluation as consultation
As for the student consultation issue, Franco said that such may come in the form of evaluations. “Maybe not in the bidding but I think… we should do evaluations.”
She added that the administration plans to conduct evaluations of MISA’s services on an annual basis. For her, the improvement of services comes with constant review.
“[The student evaluations need] not necessarily [be a] survey, but [we should] regularly check with students. Actually we do that, but it isn’t institutionalized,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Franco also commented on the student response to the issue, particularly on the discussion on whether the administration’s move was in line with the Ignatian principle of being men and women for others.
She said that security, unlike education, is not a core competency of the Ateneo. She explained that it is best to leave this matter to experts.
“I think our obligation is to ensure the service providers treat their people well. We should never engage a service provider that we know do not practice good human resource. So, I think, that would be our manifestation of being men for others.”
“I understand the position of Fr. Villarin and respect his decision,” Poe said of the administration’s final decision on LSIA’s appeal.
He said that the displaced guards from Ateneo “can easily be absorbed” by the agency’s other clients. The problem, however, is that some clients are very particular with the age and appearance of the guards, and it may be a challenge to find those willing to accept the older employees.
“We will be exerting our utmost efforts to immediately place these guards and, if all else fails, we will offer them financial assistance, separation packages commensurate to their period of service to the company,” he said.
Poe said serving the Ateneo community had been “a great and invaluable experience.”
“We learned so much from the community…we bring with us and cherish all these valuable lessons and look forward to continuing to live out and promote these values in our other projects.”