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Statement on attack of armed rebels in North Cotabato schools

PASIG CITY, June 22, 2017 – Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones continues to reiterate that schools and learning spaces are zones of peace, and maintains that the security and safety of learners, teaching and non-teaching personnel are the foremost priority in the event of conflict, disaster, and emergency.

Classes in Vicente Rapacon Elementary School and Malingao Elementary School in the Midsayap Southwest District were immediately suspended yesterday following a clash between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Schools were immediately vacated and teachers from both schools already reported to the district office, according to North Cotabato Schools Division Superintendent Omar Obas.

Classes were also suspended in all Pigcawayan West District schools due to an armed clash in the barangays of Simsiman and Malagakit.

However, Malagakit Elementary School was reportedly damaged, while Simsiman High School confirmed that its offices and computer room were ransacked by the rebel group early in the morning. One school guard on duty managed to escape multiple shots fired at him and sought refuge at a nearby military detachment unit. He suffered no injury.

According to the latest report from the field, 106 learners of Malagakit Elementary School and their families were already tracked, while one teacher of Pigcawayan National High School and her family were reportedly evacuated by authorities from their house located near the conflict area.

As of June 22, affected learners and teachers are undergoing debriefing and psychological intervention through the assistance of nurses and trained teachers from the Division Office of North Cotabato. Classes in Midsayap Southwest have been resumed while classes in Pigcawayan are still suspended.

Although the extent of the damage is yet to be concluded, the Department assures that no learner and personnel were held hostage.

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Mark Anthony Llego

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