LEARNERS, teachers, and non-teaching personnel have been traumatized by the encounters involving alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and government troops that occurred near schools, according to an official of the Department of Education (DepEd).
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said that these encounters happened in Masbate and Camarines Sur since January of this year.
Atty. Michael Tan Poa, DepEd spokesperson, said that a total of 55, 000 learners and 2,815 teachers and non-teaching staff were affected by the clashes.
Learners, teachers and non-teaching staff, he said, were given “psychological first aid” and the local DepEd office in Masbate is monitoring if there are students who are too traumatized by the incidents to return to school.
“We are not discounting that, so we are monitoring the situation to see if there is a need to give further aid, especially in terms of psychological assistance,” Poa said, adding that one school was reported to have sustained minor injury during the clash in Placer town in Masbate.
Undersecretary and NTF-ELCAC Executive Director Ernesto Torres Jr., meanwhile, noted that the rebels are now using areas near schools to bait the government troops to respond.
“It’s been happening since the start of the year. There is now a pattern,” he said, explaining that the rebels would hang tarpaulins and other materials containing their propaganda near schools. When security forces would respond to tear down the materials, they would be fired upon or hit with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“There is now a pattern of the use of tarpaulin containing their propaganda and IEDs.What is deplorable is they put the tarpaulins and IEDs near or in the vicinity of schools,” said Torres in a joint press briefing with Poa at the DepEd central office in Pasig City.
Torres reminded that schools are “peace zones” and that they are alarmed and horrified by the pattern of “ruthless and indiscriminate acts instigated by the CPP-NPA near our public schools in flagrant and utter disregard of the safety and welfare of our teachers, learners and the community.”
He cited five encounters in Masbate and Camarines Sur where he said the communist rebels used the said tactics.