CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Four unidentified gunmen entered the premises of a public school in a remote village in Bukidnon and attempted to kill two teachers on Tuesday morning, police said Wednesday.

Police said Zhydee Cabañelez, 32, and her husband Ramil survived an attempt on their lives inside the classroom at Dalit Elementary School in Sitio Dalit, Barangay Lumbayao, Valencia City, Bukidnon.

Lt. Col. Surki Sereñas, Valencia City Police chief, said Cabañelez was inside her classroom preparing to start her class when the shooting happened.

Aside from Cabañelez, her husband Ramil, 34, along with seven pupils, were inside the classroom at the time, he said.

The Dalit Elementary School is a small learning facility located about 20 kilometers from the city proper and can only accessed by a raft or a pump boat on the other side of the Pulangi River.

After crossing the river, one has to walk or ride a horse for 30 minutes to reach the area.

Cabañelez is a multi-grade teacher and a 2017 Outstanding Teacher awardee in her barangay in Sinabuagan, Valencia, while her husband is a teacher-in-charge.

“Both Zhydee and Ramil were inside the classroom when the shooting started. Zhydee was attending to something while Ramil was looking for some files,” the police chief said.

He said the gunmen approached Cabañelez and asked where her husband was. When they saw him, one of the attackers started shooting at him, but Ramil managed to duck and took cover under a table.

After firing at Ramil, the assailant then shot at Cabañelez, hitting her foot twice and her shoulder twice.

When she fell down, the suspects exited the classroom.

“They have the opportunity to finish Zhydee off and shoot at Ramil, but instead they left,” Sereñas said, adding that the victim is now in stable condition.

He said the schools division superintendent of Valencia Dr. Victoria Gazo already requested the Department of Social Welfare and Development to hold a counseling session for the pupils who witnessed the shooting.

Worst attack on ACT’

Progress groups on Wednesday condemned the shooting.

According to Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Cabañelez is one of its members who has been active in campaigning for the advancement of the welfare of the teachers and of the people.

“Following of months of profiling, red-tagging, vilification, threats, and harassment, ACT sees this as the worst attack yet on the union. It is worth noting that this strike comes at a time when teachers have been growing in strength and uniting en masse for a substantial salary increase,” ACT said in a statement released Tuesday night.

The group said the shooting was “an attempt to sow fear among teachers who assert for their rights and to quell the burgeoning fight for decent pay, then we urge the government to pay closer attention to the lessons of history — state fascism only breeds resistance among the people.”

ACT added it “has and will not cower in the face of vicious repressive measures and increasingly fascist attacks.”

It said it is calling on the Department of Education to exhaust all measures to bring justice to Cabañelez and her family.

“It is our duty as educators to fight for human rights and human lives. We will forward our call of justice side-by-side with our call for substantial salary increase as both are fights to defend life which is an utmost duty of educators,” ACT said.

For its part, Karapatan has reiterated that “schools should be safe spaces – a declaration repeatedly violated intensified militarization and martial law in Mindanao.”

“We also believe that this attack is targeted, a calculated maneuver to instill fear as part of a series of attacks on progressive organizations, peasant organizers, indigenous rights defenders, and human rights activists in Mindanao, particularly in Bukidnon,” it said.

In 2019 alone, the human rights watchdog group Karapatan said it has documented at least seven cases of extrajudicial killings in Bukidnon that have primarily targeted farmers and indigenous people in the provinces.

Karapatan said it stands alongside Cabañelez’s family, “as we hope for her speedy recovery.”

“Karapatan also rallies behind the teachers and people in Bukidnon who are bearing the brunt of this brutal government. We demand justice for this brazen attack, and attribute this to the repressive and fascist policies that justify attacks on members and leaders of progressive organizations,” it added. (

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