School principal abducted in Basilan

Karlos Manlupig
This is the 4th kidnapping in Mindanao since 2013 involving public school teachers

HOSTAGED. 60-year-old Benitta Enriquez Latonio was abducted by men believed to be members of Abu Sayyaf. Photo by Richard Falcatan

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A school principal was seized by armed men in Sumisip, Basilan, on Monday morning, March 31, a military officer said. 

Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said 60-year-old Benitta Enriquez Latonio – principal of Manggal Elementary School – was abducted by more or less 5 armed men wearing ski masks in sitio Mompol, Barangay Libug, at around 6:30 am.

The perpetrators are believed to be Abu Sayyaf members under Juhaibel Alamsirul who is also known as Abu Kik.

Latonio was riding a yellow Tamaraw vehicle bound for Isabela City when they were waylaid by the armed men.

This is the 4th incident of kidnapping in Mindanao since last year involving public school teachers under the Department of Education (DepEd).

Last September 25, 2013, several teachers were held hostage by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Midsayap,North Cotabato. They were released the day after. 

Almost 3 months after on December 18, 2013, teacher Cathy Casipong was abducted in Zamboanga. She was released only this March 2014. 

Latonio is the second DepEd personnel kidnapped this month. Earlier on March 5, Alrashid Jahang, a teacher from Patikul, Sulu, was also held hostage for one day.

In a statement Monday, Education Secretary Armin Luistro expressed his department’s “utmost disgust” with the “dastardly act.”

“As in other similar incidents, we rely on and will work with DILG and the LGU as lead agency in securing the safety of our personnel and providing protection for our teachers and students. We ask the general public to pray for our dedicated DepEd personnel and build communities of peace where everyone feels safe and cared for,” Luistro added.  with reports from Jee Y. Geronimo/

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