Classes suspended in all levels in Cotabato town following shooting of school children


COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Feb)—Mayor Sumulong K. Sultan of the municipality of Pikit in Cotabato province has suspended classes in all levels in the area following a shooting incident on Wednesday that victimized school children.

Municipality of Pikit, Cotabato Province. Map courtesy of Google

Col. Harold Ramos, provincial police director of Cotabato, said it appears that four gunmen using high-powered firearms were involved in the shooting.

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, meanwhile, called for an investigation into the spate of killings in Pikit, worried that some quarters wanted it to appear that there is a feud between Christians and Muslims in the municipality.

Reports circulating on social media said Fahad Dianalan Guintawan, a 13-year-old Grade 7 student of Pikit National High School and a resident of Sitio Tambak Barangay Gli-gli, was killed in a shooting incident around 2 p.m. Two of his companions were reportedly wounded—one was identified only as Jinwar, aged 12; and the other a still unidentified 11-year-old.

The municipal police station, however, mentioned nothing about the killing of a student in its Facebook post titled “Stop the killing” late afternoon Tuesday. The police post only said it “strongly condemn[ed] the shooting incident” at Barangay Gli-Gli in Pikit that victimized two minor students, one suffering fatal injury, and the other non-fatal.

The students were residents of Barangay Macabual in Pikit, police said.

Mayor Sultan, in his post Tuesday evening, said the cancellation of classes will be from Wednesday until Friday in all levels in the elementary, high school and college.

“Bunga ito ng ilang insidenteng naglagay sa panganib sa buhay ng mga inosente at ilang kabataang estudyante (This is due to the incident that endangered the lives of innocent and young students),” he said.

In Sultan’s Executive Order No. 3, series of 2023, the mayor noted the “series of shooting and killing incidents that transpired this month of February, involving innocent civilians and students, which can be construed as retaliation of unknown culprits that resulted in uncertainties to both Muslims and Christians that might be victimized by these senseless killings.”

The municipal police also published another “stop the killing” post hours earlier, involving Jose Neri Gonzales, in another “shooting incident that transpired at Brgy. Inug-ug.”

Ramos told MindaNews over mobile phone Wednesday night that they are still interviewing the wounded students and their relatives.

He said one of the victims was still in the hospital.

Ramos said they are strengthening some more their “Oplan Kapkap Bakal Sita,” which is checking on suspicious characters if they carry firearms. He said that in areas they deem to be critical, they are deploying troops to set up additional checkpoints to prevent similar incidents.

The night before the shooting incident, heavy gun fires could be heard in the downtown area due to clashes  near the villages of Calawag and Balong. A day before the incident, a security guard was killed. 

Ebrahim, in a press conference Wednesday, said they have already composed a task force to investigate the killings in Pikit.

“It appears that some people want to make this appear as between Muslims and Christians,” he said. “We don’t want this because this was what happened in the 1960s,” Ebrahim added.

Incidents of killings in Pikit peaked before the election last year.

During peace building summits, it was found out that several layers of conflicts were monitored in the said town, including rido (clan war) of rival clans, armed groups and local political rivalry.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. has given instruction to  security sectors to give importance to the peace and stability in Pikit and the other Special Geographic Areas in the BARMM. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)