COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The spate of killings continued in Pikit, Cotabato province, with another minor killed on Thursday, February 16, just two days after a shooting incident involving schoolchildren in the downtown area.
The victim, Justine Ababon, a 15-year-old 9th grader at the Notre Dame of Pikit and a resident of Barangay Fort Pikit, was attending to his family’s store when still unidentified men approached and fired several shots, hitting him in the chest.
Investigators said the suspects were armed with caliber .45 pistols.
Emerging from an emergency security meeting in Pikit, Brigadier General Donald Gumiran, the commander of Army’s 602nd Brigade, confirmed that Ababon was the latest victim in a series of gun attacks in the town in recent weeks.
Authorities said the suspects fled toward the direction of Barangay Batulawan in Pikit after they carried out the gun attack at around 1:49 pm.
Ababon was rushed to the Cruzado Medical Hospital in Pikit but was later moved to the Community Doctors’ Hospital in Midsayap, Cotabato, where he was declared dead, according to Inter-Religious Dialogue Head of Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Pikit town, Fr. Romeo Saniel.
But Ababon was not the lone shooting victim in the town on Thursday. Prior to the attack, 42-year-old farmer Lopez Guiama of Barangay Balongis, Pikit, was also shot and badly wounded in the same village of Fort Pikit.
Guiama was driving a motorcycle on his way home from the market area when two still unidentified men, without provocation, shot the victim, said town police chief Colonel John Calinga.
Guiama sustained gunshot wounds in his neck and arm, and crashed his motorcycle after the surprise attack.
He is still in critical condition in a local hospital as of posting time.
Police said the suspects used a caliber .45 pistol in the attack based on an empty shell found at the crime scene, and rode a motorcyle in tandem.
Pikit town and security officials said they would hold a Municipal Peace and Order Council Meeting on Friday.
A day earlier, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Murad” Ebrahim ordered an investigation into the Valentine’s Day shooting that killed a 13-year-old student and wounded two other school children in Pikit.
Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan has suspended all classes in the area until Friday, February 17, citing the escalating violence in the town this month.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has already expressed concern over the violence against children in Cotabato province.
UNICEF said the Philippines is legally obligated to protect the rights of children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, even as it pointed out that violence and conflict often have devastating consequences for children.
According to the report on Children and Armed Conflict in the Philippines, 67 children were killed or injured between January 2020 and December 2021, and more than 266,000 grave violations against children have been verified by the United Nations (UN) in over 30 conflict situations worldwide between 2005 and 2020. – Rappler.com
Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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