Philippines: Pimentel wants Senate probe of Taysan school fire

Jun. 04, 2007

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel,
Jr. (PDP-Laban) is seeking a Senate inquiry into the
burning of the Pinagbayanan Elementary School in
Taysan, Batangas at dawn on May 15, killing three
persons and injuring 12 others who were rendering
election duties.

In Senate Resolution 630 filed today, Pimentel asked
the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs to
conduct the inquiry in view of the claim of two
arrested suspects who belong to the Regional Special
Operations Group (RSOG) of the Philippine National
Police – Region 4 that they were hastily and
probably erroneously, if not maliciously tagged as the
perpetrators of the vile deed.

There is an imperative need to establish the
identities of the culprits of the crime and prevent a
miscarriage of justice that appears to be in the
offing, he said.

According to reports, five unidentified malefactors
allegedly appeared at the canvassing area of the
Pinagbayanan Elementary School and caused the blaze.

One of the suspects allegedly entered polling precinct
76-A and poured gasoline on a ballot box. Afterwards,
the suspect fired his gun at the ballot box causing it
to ignite, which quickly set the school building on

High school teacher Nellie Banaag and poll watcher
Leticia Ramos perished after they were trapped in the
restroom of one of the burning classrooms. Another
poll watcher, Guillermo Malaluan, died May 22 while
undergoing treatment for severe burns at the
University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.

At least 12 others suffered serious burns all over
their bodies and are recuperating in several hospitals
in Batangas and Metro Manila.

Subsequently, law enforcers apprehended Police
Inspector Robert Marinda and his assistant in the
RSOG, SPO2 William Relos Jr., after they were tagged
by witnesses as among five armed men who allegedly
attacked and torched the school while the canvassing
of votes was going on.

Also being investigated for arson are Taysan chief of
police Chief Inspector Elpidio Ramirez and his deputy,
Inspector Roel de la Cruz.

Marinda and Relos have strongly denied that they had
something to do with the fire. Marinda said he was 11
kilometers away from Taysan town proper on his way
home when he received a text message ordering him to
proceed to the Pinagbayanan elementary school.

In seeking the investigation, Pimentel said there is a
need to institute remedial measures to protect the
integrity of the electoral process to avert
election-related violence.

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