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[ 4 Apr 2011 | No Comment ]

ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio called on the Aquino administration to exhaust all means to ensure the safe release of 14 teachers, students, and school personnel abducted by armed men last Friday in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

“We strongly condemn the kidnapping of the teachers and students by these armed men. This is a cowardly act committed against innocent students and dedicated public servants who strive to provide education to the young people of the remote communities in Prosperidad,” said Tinio. “We urge the national authorities led by Department of the Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo together with the local authorities to secure the immediate release of all hostages.”

Over the weekend, negotiators were able to secure the release of two of the hostages, division superintendent Hipolito Lastimado and Diosdado Cabantac, teacher-in-charge of Valentina G. Plaza Primary School. Fourteen persons remain in the hands of their abductors. These are district supervisor DepEd district supervisor Narciso Oliveros; school principal Apolonio Alibangbang; school property custodian Joel Sausa; teachers Manuel Mordeno, Filipina Quitoy, Allan Gallano; volunteer teacher Mary Jean Bedrijo; and, civilians Arnold Quitoy, Pido Dolorito, Gerlie Montecalbo, Maricel Lagnazon and Shen-Shen Cabagtag.

Tinio noted that teachers serving in remote areas are regularly targeted for kidnapping in some parts of the country, particularly in Mindanao. “Last year, teachers in Zamboanga, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Sulu were kidnapped by armed bandit groups. They were released only after months in captivity. The school principal kidnapped in Sulu was beheaded by his captors. This highlights the vulnerability of school personnel serving in remote areas, mainly due to a lack of security which should be provided by the police and the local government authorities.”

Tinio called for effective security measures to be immediately put in place to protect teachers and students. “The Philippine National Police must provide security to schools in remote areas by detailing police personnel to guard schools, putting up checkpoints and outposts at strategic locations, and so on. Local government authorities can also involve the community in providing security for their schools through the barangays and barangay tanods.”

“The factors which contribute to instability and lack of peace and order in these areas must also be addressed. For instance, the Aquino government must disarm all private armed groups and disband the militias or CAFGUs,” added Tinio, noting that the Ondo Perez group responsible for the kidnapping in Prosperidad were composed of ex-CAFGUs armed and trained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Government must also make sure that kidnappers are brought to justice and punished and that impunity does not prevail,” said Tinio, noting that the perpetrators of previous kidnappings of teachers remain at large. “In this light, the Aquino government must also go after the powerful political figures that are said to be behind these bandit groups and acting as their protectors.”

Tinio vowed to call for a House investigation into the kidnappings of teachers and the lack of security provided to schools, school personnel, and students. “Hopefully, we can come up with measures that will prevent incidents like this from happening again.” #