COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 16 February) — Two days after the shooting of schoolchildren in Pikit, Cotabato, another minor was killed while attending to their sari-sari store in Barangay Fort Pikit in the same town.
Brig. Gen. Donald Gumiran, commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, identified the victim as Justine Abalon, 15, and a grade-9 student of Notre Dame of Pikit.
“Accordingly, the victim was just standing in his store when unidentified suspects approached him and fired at him several times using a caliber .45 pistol hitting his chest,” said Gumiran.
The incident took place shortly before 2 p.m. The assailants fled towards the direction of Barangay Batulawan.
The gunman was allegedly wearing a green shirt.
Ababon was first brought to Cruzado Medical Hospital in Pikit but later transferred to Community Doctor’s Hospital in Midsayap, Cotabato.
He was later declared dead at the hospital, according to Fr. Romeo Saniel, head of the Inter-Religious Dialogue of Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Pikit.
Around forty minutes before the shooting of Ababon, a farmer was shot also in Barangay Fort Pikit, town police chief Col. John Calinga said.
The victim is identified as Lopez Guiama, 42, a resident of Barangay Balongis, Pikit.
Guiama was driving home his single motorcycle after buying a sack of cement at the market area when two gunmen aboard a motorcycle shot him, Calinga said.
The victim sustained gunshot wounds in his neck and arm and fell from his motorcycle. He is now in critical condition in a local hospital.
One of the attackers reportedly wore a white shirt and the other one a sweat shirt.
An empty shell of .45 caliber pistol empty was seen at the crime scene.
The Municipal Peace and Order Council will hold a meeting on Friday to tackle the spate of violence in the town.
UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Behzad Noubary, in a statement issued Wednesday, said he is deeply concerned over the earlier shooting incident that killed one child and injured two others. The victims were on their way home from school in Pikit.
“Conflict robs children of their life and childhood. Violence threatens children’s lives and well-being. They are denied access to education and essential services, and live in an atmosphere of fear. We need to end violence. Children are zones of peace,” Noubary said.
“Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, the Philippines including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has a legal and moral obligation to promote, protect and fulfil the human rights of every child,” he said.
“In situations of violence and conflict children continue to pay a heavy price. Between 2005 and 2020, the United Nations verified over 266,000 grave violations against children in more than 30 conflict situations around the world. In the Philippines, the Secretary General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict in July 2022 revealed that 67 children have been killed and injured between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021,” he added.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. condemned the attack on the children of Pikit.
“We won’t stop until the culprits face the consequences, there is no space for these killers in this administration especially those killing children,” Abalos said in a statement Thursday.
He said his office is coordinating with National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año and National Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. to find the suspects behind the attack.
Abalos has also instructed Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. to lead the investigation. ((Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)