Kin, colleagues demand justice for slain principal

Salga, 60, was buried after solemn funeral rites that drew more than 2,000 sympathizers. He was shot dead on March 25 shortly after the school held a program to give tribute to the parents of graduating pupils.

In the statement, the family of the slain principal called on the Department of Education, the police, the local government unit and the National Bureau of Investigation to expedite the capture of his killers.

"We, the members of the Salga Family together with our relatives denounce the manner of his untimely death. We demand justice for him," the statement said.

Teachers and school administrators came donning white shirts printed with "Justice for Onie" in front and "We do not deserve bullets" at the back. Barangay officials and residents of Impalambong where the Salgas live also came with their trademark green shirts.

Police have been mum on the possible motives of the killing. But sources who asked not to be named pointed to a land dispute involving claimants of a lot in Casisang Elementary School, also in Malaybalay, where he served as the principal prior to his assignment in Airport Village Elementary School.

His death came two days ahead of a court hearing on the land case.

In their eulogies after the requiem mass, family members and colleagues remembered "Onie" as a loving and caring person who they said became more prayerful in his last months.

One of the teachers in his school recalled that he was jolly, humorous and treated them like his children.

Family, friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues from DepEd and other schools filled the 1,600-seater San Isidro Cathedral. A school teacher described it as one of the biggest funerals in the city, after Fr. Nery Lito Satur’s in 1991 which filled not only the church but also the Plaza Rizal in front of it.

But his colleagues pledged a bigger crowd next week in a show of force in support to the quest for justice for their slain colleague.

Employee associations of the DepEd Division of Bukidnon have organized an indignation march and prayer-rally at Plaza Rizal on April 8 to express dismay over how educators are treated and to call on concerned government agencies to give justice to his "untimely death".

Edilberto Oplinario, DepEd Bukidnon spokesperson, told MindaNews via telephone that around 7,000 DepEd officials and personnel are expected to assemble at the City Grandstand. They will then march to Plaza Rizal via Fortich Street and hold an "indignation rally".

The march-rally was organized by the associations of school heads, principals, supervisors and non-teaching staff, Dr. Gloria Benigno, schools division superintendent, clarified to MindaNews Monday afternoon.

She stressed that all officials and personnel are coming on their own will and that she is not making it mandatory. But her office was optimistic the teachers and school administrators will come in solidarity.

Felenio Maallo, a district supervisor from Malitbog town, said the indignation rally is what they can do for now to pressure authorities. He said they must focus on solving the case to protect the interests of the school administrators and teachers.

He added that while they will focus on the case of Salga the target is really to protect all school administrators who are involved in disputes over lands owned by schools.

He urged the communities and local officials to help protect school personnel who are involved in land disputes.

A principal who asked not to be named told MindaNews the responsibility of attending to land disputes has endangered their lives.

Another supervisor said DepEd should have a legal office to attend to such cases.

"Sometimes the principal is left in the field alone fighting for the land," he said.

Teddy Suarez, principal of Sinuda National High School, said teachers should not be killed because they are doing sacrifices for the education of the youth.

Another principal said at the wake that those who are assigned to schools with land disputes should be armed only to be opposed by another who warned it might invite violence.

Benigno confirmed there are at least 30 schools in Bukidnon with land disputes but that Salga's case was the worst.

She denied they have failed to provide legal assistance but stressed it is the school principal's duty to guard his school’s properties.

Maalo, who was among the 20 school officials who formed a core group to organize their actions, said their move might be too late since Salga is already dead.

"But we have to do this to stop killings and harassments in the future," he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)