DAVAO CITY, Philippines – An unverified bomb scare spread through Facebook Thursday morning disrupted classes in Santa Ana Central Elementary School and caused panic among parents and guardians of schoolchildren.
The Sta. Ana Police Station declared the bomb scare was a hoax an hour after the Davao City Police Explosive Ordinance Division and K9 unit team searched the school premises and declared it “cleared” from explosives, and after verifying how the information spread.
Sta. Ana Police Station Deputy Commander Captain Rizalito Clapiz said the false information started through a message received by one of the parents on social media, quickly escalated, and resulted in the swarm of parents and guardians rushing to get their children.
“Initially ang giingon sa parents kuan daw sa Facebook nakuha tapos giinform lang niya ang teacher tas karon nagkatag-katag na, (Initially the parents said they received this information from Facebook, then they informed the teacher but it spread fast)” said Clapiz to reporters after the incident.
Tension rose as school and police authorities tried to secure the perimeter while parents flocked to the school gates.
The situation later calmed down when the school principal addressed the parents that they will first release the kindergarten students one by one to their parents. Later, the school opened a separate gate for the parents to fetch their children at the grade school level.
In the aftermath, parents were very concerned over the incident.
Ana Fe Santos, who has three children ate studying at Sta. Ana Central Elementary School, said that after learning the situation through a Facebook Live video, hurriedly went to the school without changing her clothes and without realizing that she was wearing different pairs of slippers on each of her feet.
“Naguol gyud ko kay ang gipasa man gud sa akoa nga video daghan naa kaayong mga ginikanan naa dire gusto kuhaon ilang mga anak. Nya ako kay naa ra man diha among balay, nagkadagan dagan lagi ko kay abi nakog naunsa na dire. Di lalim akong kakulba oi (I was alarmed when they shared this video that many parents were trying to fetch their kids. I was the only one in the house, so I ran all the way here, not knowing what is happening. I was very scared),” Santos said.
Another parent, Felix Sale left his Sari-Sari store to get his Grade 2 and Grade 4 grandchildren after one of his customers who also has a child studying on the campus told him about the bomb scare.
“Kinsay dili mabalaka ana nga ang ingon naay niboto nga bomba nya duha nako ka apo naa baya sa sulod. Gagmay pa, ang mga ginikanan naa sa trabaho, dali dali kog anhi kay basin mangaunsa ba (Who wouldn’t be frightened when we heard there was a bomb and my two grandchildren are in there. Their parents are at work, so I came here as fast as I can),” he said.
Frightened and worried, most parents interviewed by Davao Today said the authorities should hold the perpetrator of this incident accountable.
“Kung kinsa man nang nagapakalat unta kay madakpan na dayon, kay dili lalim ni ilang gibuhat nga kakulba ug kahadlok sa amoa. Grabe ka purwesyo (Whoever spread this should be arrested, because what they did caused us alarm and fear),” said Santos.
The Department of Education Schools Division of Davao City condemned the incident.
“(This) Office is closely coordinating with the concerned authorities for the investigation of the source of the aforesaid deceptive information. We would like to commend how the Sta. Ana Central Elementary School systematically managed the situation through prompt communication, intimate alleviation of parents’ anxieties, and expeditious coordination with experts and local authorities,” their statement said.
The Schools Division Office has also ordered all schools in Davao City “to reinforce tight security measures in their respective school communities, continuously improve communication protocols, strengthen security and surveillance measures, consistently monitor and check all classrooms/ buildings, actively avoid the dissemination of unverified information on jeopardizing news, and to constantly prioritize the safety and well-being of all teachers and learners.”
They also reiterated the importance of verifying factual and accurate information, especially concerning the safety and security of the students.
“Even though the bomb threat turned out to be a hoax, this Office tenaciously reiterates the social responsibility of propagating only factual, verified, and accurate information by all means and at all times to foster the values of honesty, trust, and accountability.”
Spreading misinformation or jokes about bomb threats is punishable under Presidential Decree 1727 or the Anti-Bomb Joke Law.
Last Monday, a person was arrested in Roxas Night Market and detained by TF Davao for jokingly shouting a bomb joke during the inspection of his bag.
Davao City has experienced bomb attacks in public places since the 1980s that have killed several people. The recent ones happened in 2002 with the bombings of the old Davao Airport in Sasa and the Sasa seaport. The Davao City Overland Terminal was bombed in 2005.
In 2016, the Roxas Night Market was bombed. This was the only incident where the perpetrators were arrested.
After the 2002 bombings, the Task Force Davao was formed by composite military units to act as security on the borders and major establishments in the city.
TFD commander Colonel Darren Comia assured in a press conference on Thursday morning that they have realigned the forces “to cater to all strategic areas” of the city including additional checkpoints and military presence. This was after a lawyer’s vehicle was bombed last week.
“We are on top of the situation and we are doing everything. We are doing our best to ensure the safety and security of Dabawenyos and Davao City,” he added.
Comia said that while the bomb scare in Sta. Ana Elementary was understandable, he advised Dabawenyos to verify the information before spreading this online.
“Kaya po wag po tayo basta magsend ng messages na hindi tayo sure para hindi makapag-create ng panic, (That is why we don’t immediately send messages that we are not sure of the facts so we won’t create panic),” the TF Davao chief said. (davaotoday.com)bomb scare, davao city