GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) suspended gun permits and imposed a province-wide gun ban in Cotabato in response to a series of violent attacks, especially in the town of Pikit where school children have become victims of gun violence in recent weeks.
PNP chief Director General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. issued the order suspending permits to carry firearms outside residences which took effect on Saturday night, February 18.
The order came due to a spate of killings in Pikit, Cotabato, where two minors were killed and several others, including two other school children, were hurt.
The town has been gripped by a series of gun violence, which has been initially blamed on feuding groups in some villages of the town.
Cotabato province forms part of the Soccsksargen region, but some of its villages and communities have voted to be part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“One of the tools of violence are guns, and so, we will stop the carrying of guns by any individual,” said 602nd Army Brigade commander Colonel Donald Gumiran on Saturday.
The police and military were evaluating the situation and would deploy more security forces in strategic areas across Cotabato province, said Cotabato police provincial director Colonel Harold Ramos.
The recent cases of gun violence in Pikit town have sown fear and outrage among residents, prompting local leaders to ask police and military authorities to set up more police checkpoints and military detachments.
Ramos said they would scale up the security measures and would carry out offensive operations against fugitives who have used several villages in Pikit as cover.
Bangsamoro police director Brigadier General John Guyguyon said they were closely coordinating with their counterparts in the Soccsksargen region on how they can effectively put an end to Pikit’s worsening peace and order problem.
Gun attacks in the past days claimed the lives of school children, sparking public outrage and even disrupting classes.
Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan announced that the town government would reward citizens who could help authorities identify and catch those behind the recent attacks.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed alarm over the attacks on children in Pikit and asked the government to do something about it.
Many residents expressed fear and have contemplated moving out of the town, and police authorities remain clueless about possible suspects and motives in all these incidents. – with reports from Ferdinandh Cabrera / Rappler.com
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