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Zamboanga City schools jittery over text messages about kidnaps, bomb threats

/ 03:23 PM August 20, 2014

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Authorities here have urged parents and guardians to first verify reports they receive via text messages about security threats, especially against their children, and not immediately panic.

Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar said residents should “refrain from forwarding unverified text messages” as these could sow panic and confusion.”

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On Tuesday, dozens of parents rushed to two elementary schools here following text messages that some groups were out to kidnap school children or launch bomb attacks.

Pedro Melchor Natividad, the schools division superintendent, said one grandmother told him that she was taking home her grandchild from the Canelar Elementary School because of a threat to bomb the school.

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Natividad said the gates of the Canelar Elementary School were nearly destroyed when panicking parents stormed the school grounds to get their children.

Natividad said a similar incident took place in Santa Maria Elementary School when terrified parents arrived at the school and hurriedly took their children home.

He said these situations could turn into disaster.

Salazar said panic also gripped the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology in Rio Hondo village due to the text messages about a bomb plot and kidnappings that have been circulating here.

Natividad said the trauma that the residents experienced due to the Sept. 9 siege of the city arising from the occupation launched by disgruntled Moro National Liberation Front members might have been taken advantage by some quarters to stir panic among residents.

Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, city police director, agreed.

“There is still trauma and fear in many of Zamboangueños,” he said.

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Casimiro said people tended to panic on mere suspicion of violence especially during special days, celebrations or holidays.

“It’s always like this,” he added.

Like Natividad, Casimiro said the police also believed that “there is a group or individuals orchestrating this to sow fear and panic and they are capitalizing on the vulnerability of our people here.”

Salazar said residents could verify reports they would get through text.  She cited as an example of false information a text barrage on Monday that claimed she had been kidnapped.

“These false messages spread around regarding peace and security and threats, please don’t be afraid. Our military and police, including barangay officials, are here to protect us and defend our rights to live in peace and be secured,” Salazar added.

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TAGS: Children, Isabel Climaco Salazar, Kidnapping, Local authorities, Local Governments, mayor, Mobile phones, News, Panic, Regions, Safety, Security, short messaging system, SMS, text messages, Threats
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