4 CAMSUR TEACHERS MOLESTED, ROBBED: DO PH SCHOOLS LACK SECURITY?
As limited face-to-face classes began last August 22, are schools safe for children other than the obvious threat of COVID-19 after the recent attack on four teachers in Ocampo, Camarines Sur?
What is the government’s plan of action to combat threats to security and health?
These are the questions that the public wants to be answered as they send their children to schools after roughly two years of distance learning.
Four teachers were molested and robbed in a school in Ocampo, Camarines Sur on August 8 while preparing for Brigada Eskwela as classes are set on August 22.
Police Major Reynaldo Balindan said that the suspect entered the school and was armed with his face covered and took cellular phones and cash of the teachers.
He then proceeded to molest the four individuals in an isolated area of the school after robbing them.
Balindan refused to name the school and the victims but said that they already have a name. Charges are being prepared alongside the manhunt operation.
The issue of school security has been an issue in the government since 2014 as former Department of Education National Capital Region Assistant Regional Director Ponciano Menguito said that schools still rely on local governments for the hiring of security guards.
The issue was brought up again in 2022 as the said incident in CamSur prompted the review of school policies and budgeting for the need for more security personnel around schools.
DepEd is already working with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management for the use of the Special Education Fund to hire at least one security personnel per school under a new joint memorandum circular.
The fund will also be used to repair and construct new buildings to ramp up school facilities.
A supplemental budget increase for public schools has been suggested by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in July to increase schools’ spending for maintenance and other operating expenses like utilities, supplies, and salaries of job order workers, among others.
Only five percent of P30 billion is allocated for operational costs on the P592-billion budget of the Department of Education for 2022.
The Philippine National Police said that around 23,000 of its personnel will be deployed around to assist with the implementation of face-to-face classes.
OTHER SCHOOL ATTACKS
While historically, attacks on schools are not as common in the Philippines, recent years showed that the notable ones involve the school blast that rocked the then Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology on 2014 which left 24 people wounded — including teachers and students.
In 2017, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked a school in an attempt to set up a militia outpost in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.
A crossfire between police personnel in civilian uniforms and three attacks were also recorded in Mindanao State University in Marawi, Lanao del Sur took place in 2021.
The most recent one, on the other hand, was borne out of personal vendetta after an ex-mayor, a security guard, and an aide was gunned down at the Ateneo de Manila University last July 24.
REACTIONS TO THE INCIDENT
DepEd condemned the act and asked local authorities to assist in the investigation.
DepEd also said that financial assistance and psychosocial intervention for the teachers are available to ease their trauma due to the incident.
“We denounce any acts of violence and injustice towards our teachers, who have been showing their dedication and effort to deliver equitable, resilient, inclusive, and quality education to our learners,” the agency said.
Teachers’ Dignity Coalition National Chairperson Benjo Basas also called for an investigation and deplored the crime committed against the teachers.
“This violence perpetrated against our hapless teachers is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms. We call on our law enforcement authorities for a speedy investigation to bring the culprits to justice,” Basas said.
The Commission on Human Rights Region 5 is also conducting a motu proppio probe as they see that it is gender-based crime.
“It is reprehensible that our valuable and committed teachers suffered such a brazen act of abuse. It is also utterly alarming that this gender-based violence happened on school grounds, which are supposed to be safe havens for learners and teachers,” CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers also condemned the move and said that the attack exposes the vulnerability of schools to attackers.
“The incident only exposes the vulnerability of our schools to scumbags who are out to harm innocent people,” ACT said.