The Department of Education reminded school and local government officials of “schools are zones of peace” policy after some armed police were spotted inside a provincial school on Monday, November 15.
Some education advocates earlier noticed their presence in a photo of a report about the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes at the Longos Elementary School in Barangay Pangapisan, Alaminos City, Pangasinan.
They questioned the need for police with firearms inside a classroom filled with children.
What DepEd said
These concerns eventually reached DepEd’s attention.
In a statement on the same day, the education department said that the armed uniform personnel were part of the security detail of a provincial official who visited the school.
“The Department of Education (DepEd) has been made aware of an incident regarding the presence of uniformed personnel equipped with their issued firearm inside one of the pilot schools of limited face-to-face classes. Based on the field report, the police officers were part of the security detail of an LGU official who visited the school,” DepEd said.
It then reminded local government officials and school personnel of its 2019 order called “National Policy Framework on Learners and Schools as Zones of Peace.”
The framework was established to protect learners and schools in conflict-stricken areas and ensure the continuity of their education amid incidents of armed conflict.
The policy framework is also “in cognizance of the department’s role in responding to the immediate impact of armed conflicts on learners and schools, including school personnel, as well as to the requirements and challenges of long-term peacebuilding toward establishing a resilient society.”
In its recent statement, DepEd cited the rule that stated the following:
“Schools, as a general rule, should be free from the presence of armed combatants, whether they be from government forces or armed groups. Armed force protection units from government forces, if needed, shall be situated proximate to the school and not inside the school.”
The government agency then thanked the people who made them aware of the incident.
“We are thankful for the support of our various stakeholders and partners in our efforts to reintroduce face-to-face classes but we must always adhere to existing policies in schools,” DepEd said.
“DepEd shall work together with our stakeholders to ensure that our guidelines on Schools as Zones of Peace, where our learners feel safe, secured, and nurtured, are observed,” it added.
Some Filipinos earlier called the attention of DepEd and expressed concerns on the children’s safety around firearms.
“Law enforcers in stupid camo with long firearms are with schoolchildren? Are you nuts @pnppio??? You too @DepEd_PH,” forensic scientist Raquel Fortun wrote.
“Accidents can also happen when a person is holding a gun in a room full of CHILDREN. If this is for COVID-19 protocols, why a gun?! Get a good teacher to make the students follow the protocols, not armed people!” another Twitter user pointed out.
“Uhhh Mamser, bakit may rifle sa loob ng classroom at paaralan? Bakit may armas? At bakit militar ang nasa loob ng paaralan? Pwede naman volunteer parents o community organization…?” statistician Peter Cayton also said.
Some online users also voiced out that the sight of firearms can be traumatic to children.
“As someone who is currently pursuing my masters in child psychology, this is a big no in child development, this is even criminal I think,” one Twitter user said.
Philip Jamilla of Karapatan, meanwhile, shared a screenshot of DepEd’s policy framework that stated the definitions and rules on “Schools as zones of peace.”
Anong punto ng pagsusuot ng fatigue at malalaking armas sa loob ng paaralan na puno ng mga bata? Hindi ba labag ‘to sa @DepEd_PH National Policy Framework on Learners and Schools as Zones of Peace? https://t.co/04Th1Bxtc1 pic.twitter.com/obP20sPka4
— Philip Jamilla 🧣 (@pmjamilla) November 15, 2021
Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers Party-list) also condemned the entry of these armed police personnel.
In a statement, Castro pointed out that there are already teachers and other teaching personnel to guide the students with their learning.
“May mga guro at non-teaching personnel na para mag-ensure na naoobserve ang minimum health protocols. Police and military personnel, especially those armed, have no place in schools,” the lawmaker said.