KIDS’ TRAUMA Pupils refuse to go to school after teacher’s killing in Argao

2/12/10 - A 12-year-old grade 6 pupil was trembling.
She could still remember how a gunman shot dead her class adviser and teacher, Romeo Aguirre Duran, while he was checking test papers in their classroom last Wednesday.
“Kadto pa gyud ko nakakita ug gipatay (That was the first time I saw someone killed),” the girl told her mother.
A day after the unsolved shooting, officials in Binlod Elementary School in Argao town, south Cebu, had to suspend classes because most of the 328 students were absent, a sign of the trauma caused by the violence.
Rachel (not her real name) hid behind the front door of her home while narrating the shooting to CEBU DAILY NEWS. Her eyes were teary and her hands shook.
She recalled that she was drawing at her desk when a stranger entered the room and shot her teacher in the face.
Rachel didn't go to school yesterday, along with 30 other classmates.
Report cards are supposed to be distributed today but Jomari, another grade 6 pupil, said he didn’t want to got to school for fear another gunman would come looking for the children who had witnessed the shooting.
Until now, police have no clear leads of what caused the violence or who the gunman is.
The unmarried teacher had no known enemy in the school or barangay. Police said a family conflict over finances was one of several possibilities they were checking.
Romeo, a native of Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental, had been teaching in Binlod Elementary School for three years. He was the sixth of eight siblings and was financially supporting five of them because they were unemployed.
School officials were forced to suspend classes yesterday since only 50 of the school’s 328 pupils reported for classes.
Even the teachers were scared and couldn’t sleep well, said Binlod barangay captain Arnel Ruben.
Some pupils yesterday laid out two vases of flowers and lighted two candles on the classroom floor. They also poured sand to cover the blood stains.
“We asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for a stress debriefing and counseling for all the students. We will include all the teachers and parents because they were also terrified,” said Engracia Alcain, teacher-in charge of Binlod Elementary School.
Except for Alcain, the rest of the teachers were too unnerved by the shooting to enter the classroom.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said she expects a swift resolution to the crime. Garcia was briefed on the case by the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO).
She told the provincial social welfare office to coordinate with counterparts in Argao town to check on the pupils “to find ways to mitigate the possible trauma” of the children.
“We will be engaging the services of the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. We heard that the pupils do not want to go to school after the incident,” said Dr. Recaredo Borgonia, Department of Education Central Visayas director.
A team will be sent by the Department of Health (DOH– regional office for psychosocial debriefing of the students who witnessed the shooting.
Borgonia said he was also concerned about campus secuirty and would ask the help of the barangay tanods and the PNP.
Visitors on campus must be carefully screened and register at the principal's office. Bags of visitors should also be checked, he said.
Teacher Duran was checking test papers in his classroom of 31 pupils while when a man in blue T-shirt, shorts and cap entered the roomlast Wednesday.
The pupils thought he was a friend of the teacher so they all said in unison: “Good afternoon.”
Even Romeo greeted the visitor: “Good afternoon. Unsay ato (What can I do for you)?”
The stranger pulled out a gun and shot the teacher in the face. He then ran out and fled on a red XRM motorcycle without a license plate.
Teachers who heard the gunfire rushed to Romeo's classroom and found him leaning on the table covered in blood. The pupils were all crying.
No empty shell was recovered, leading police to suspect the weapon used was a revolver.
Romeo looked troubled and sad in the last two weeks. There were times he didn’t report for work without prior notice, said police.
Police have not yet identified the motive of the killing don’t discounted the siblings' misunderstanding which also involves a land dispute with a brother.
“We are are looking at different angles in the Duran case,” said Senior Supt. Erson Digal, Cebu provincial police director.
He formed a task force to look into the case. It is headed by Supt. Robin Cuizon, chief of the Provincial Investigation and Detective Managemant Branch.
“We can’t say if the perpetrator was a gun-for-hire or a relative. We would only know it once we have completed our investigation,” Digal said (Cebu Daily News)

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