Soldiers escort teachers to, from schools amid security threats in Cotabato town
PIKIT, Cotabato — The military in this town has deployed forces to escort public school teachers assigned in villages with unstable security situation after a teacher was killed and another wounded on May 26.
Lieutenant Colonel Rowel Gavilanes, commander of the Army’s 90th Infantry Battalion, said that starting on Tuesday, his unit deployed soldiers on motorbikes and in full battle gear to accompany the public school teachers as they travel to and from their respective schools.
“We are here to provide them security in support of the local police,” Gavilanes said in a radio interview.
Since Tuesday, police and military forces have been going around communities and patrolling the vicinity of public schools to thwart attempts to harm teachers and students.
There are critical barangays in Pikit where violence, like broad daylight killings and highway robbery, occur every now and then.
In Barangay Manaulanan, unidentified gunmen ambushed Joel Reformado and Elton John Lapined, who were on their way home on a motorbike. Reformado was killed, while Lapined was injured.
The incident added to the unresolved gun attacks in the town. Local police had counted 40 victims of shooting since late last year.
Education officials have condemned the killing of Reformado and urged authorities to take bold steps to ensure the safety of teachers and students.
In February, unidentified gunmen, for still unknown reasons, shot three pupils walking home for lunch in Barangay Gli-Gli, killing one of them and wounding two others. The perpetrators remain at large.
Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan on Tuesday convened the municipal peace and order council to thresh out ways to address the resurgence of violence in the town.
He also ordered all village chiefs to draw up a security plan to deal with threats in their areas.
Gavilanes said during the meeting that the military or police could not address the problem on their own without the help of the local officials.
He said he was saddened by the ambush of Reformado and Lapined as it broke the three-month trend of zero-violence that gave the people “peace and tranquility.”
Alarmed by the ambush, Cotabato schools division superintendent Romelito Flores gathered the 36 school heads of Pikit to determine the level of risk in their assigned areas.
Flores did not make public the head teachers’ security assessment.
Joven Ryan Malida, Cotabato assistant schools division superintendent, said the meeting discussed the transfer or movement of teachers on account of their safety, and arrangement of classes.
A head teacher, requesting to remain unidentified, stressed that many of them preferred their present assignments as long as security escorts were maintained.