Clashes disrupt school in Masbate towns | Inquirer News

Clashes disrupt school in Masbate towns

A member of the Cafgu was killed during a shooting incident in Dimasalang town in Masbate


LEGAZPI CITY — The Department of Education (DepEd) has condemned the series of clashes between government troops and communist rebels in Masbate province as these disrupted classes in public schools in several towns since Monday, March 20.

In a statement on Thursday, the DepEd said the “alarming rate of communist rebel activities” in Masbate “caused trauma to learners and school personnel who witnessed the senseless violence.”


Capt. Frank Roldan, chief of the public affairs office of the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division, earlier reported three clashes between government soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the towns of Cawayan, Placer and Dimasalang.

On Monday, Corporal Antonio Parreño Jr. of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB), was killed during the first encounter at Barangay Villahermosa in Cawayan at 10:20 a.m.


READ: Soldier dies in clash with suspected NPA rebels in Masbate

The firefight prompted officials of Villahermosa National High School to suspend in-person classes and shift to distance learning for a week as the school is near the clash site.

“Many civilians in the community were affected by the incidents, and it caused fear and trauma to the teachers and students,” Roldan said in a report Thursday.

READ: Masbate school shifts to distance learning after NPA clash with gov’t soldiers

“I lost my fear at that time; instead, I became stronger to face it. [I informed] the teachers [about the situation] and [instructed them to] secure the children,” said Ma. Janette Banogon, Villahermosa National High School principal.


“We were terrified because it was the first time it happened, and most of the students there were traumatized because the bomb exploded right on the roof of the school,” a Grade 12 student told the Inquirer.

On Wednesday, Private First Class Mardie Lumapag and Pvt. Angelito Tabanao, also from the 2IB, and a resident were wounded after five improvised explosive devices went off at 7:15 a.m, leading to a clash with a group of NPA rebels at Barangay Locso-an in Placer town.


At 10:40 a.m., also Wednesday, Staff Sergeant Leo Almario II and Patrolman Jasper Gigante, both from the Dimasalang town police, were wounded in an explosion and a clash with rebels in Barangay Gaid.

Cataingan Mayor Felipe Cabataña on Wednesday suspended in-person classes in public and private schools in some villages in his town due to clashes in neighboring Placer.

READ: Army-NPA clashes prompt Masbate town mayor to suspend classes

Several villages in the towns of Esperanza, Uson and Dimasalang also suspended in-person classes.

But the DepEd said there would be no blanket suspension of classes as its regional office in Bicol and the Masbate Schools Division Office were instructed to ensure learning continuity in affected areas.

“The suspension of in-person classes and immediate shift to blended learning shall be left to the discretion of the school heads/principals, upon due assessment and proper coordination with the concerned LGU (local government unit),” the DepEd said.

READ: 2 Army soldiers, minor hurt in Masbate clash

It said school officials should also consider the peace and order situation in their areas, as well as the mental health of students and school personnel.

“The Vice President and Secretary of Education, Sara Duterte, and the Army Division Commander have open communications lines, and the latter has committed to protect our school personnel and learners in the area,” the DepEd said.

Heightened alert

According to Roldan, the NPA unit operating in Masbate has been sabotaging government projects, burning equipment and planting landmines to project that it is still active, especially since the rebel group is celebrating its 54th founding anniversary on March 29.

He said government records showed that 1,385 NPA rebels and their supporters had surrendered to authorities in the Bicol region last year.

Police Lt. Col. Reynaldo Torlao, deputy provincial director for administration of the Masbate police, said they deployed augmentation teams to areas where the clashes broke out, adding that local schools had been secured.

Torlao said the police were placed on heightened alert to secure local communities.

“We are still assessing if we will augment [our personnel and send] more teams; it depends on the development of peace and order [in affected areas],” he said.



5 alleged rebels slain, 1 hurt in Masbate clash

Suspected NPA leader killed in Masbate clash

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TAGS: Conflict, Education, Masbate, Violence
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