Abus behead Sulu principal
- James Mananghaya () - November 10, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Abu Sayyaf bandits have beheaded a public school principal kidnapped last month in Patikul, Sulu, the military reported yesterday.

Maj. David Hontiveros, spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the severed head of Gabriel Canizares, 36, a resident of Lower San Raymundo in Jolo, was found inside a bag that was left at a gasoline station in Jolo at around 5 a.m. yesterday. His body has not yet been found.

“The terrorists have once again proven their barbaric nature,” Hontiveros said.

He said the troops that were coordinating with the local crisis management committee for the planned rescue operations for Canizares, principal of the Kanague Elementary School in Patikul, would now shift to punitive action against the Abu Sayyaf.

Investigators said that 12 armed bandits abducted Canizares last Oct. 19 while the victim and several other teachers were on board a passenger jeepney on their way home from the school. The kidnappers only took Canizares.

Reports said the bandits did not make public any ransom demand in exchange for the release of the school principal, but there were reports that the kidnappers had demanded a P2-million ransom.

Canizares was the latest victim of abduction by the Abu Sayyaf following the kidnapping early this year of International Committee of the Red Cross aid workers Andreas Notter, a Swiss citizen, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told reporters during the celebration of the 70th founding anniversary of the Department of National Defense at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, that the latest atrocity by the Abu Sayyaf should send a strong message to the people of Sulu to support the campaign against terrorism and lawlessness.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Victor Ibrado said government troops would continue manhunt operations for the suspects.

PNP forms task force

The Philippine National Police yesterday formed a task force to go after the abductors and killers of the school principal.

Superintendent Christopher Panapan of the Sulu Provincial Police Office will head Task Force Canizares to track down the Abu Sayyaf bandits led by a certain Abu Tarik and a certain Basaron.

Chief Superintendent Faisal Umpa, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, believes the abduction and execution of Canizares was in retaliation for the arrest last Saturday of Hassan Asnawi, a ranking official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who was linked to the beheadings of Marines in Al Barka, Basilan two years ago.

Asnawi, commander of the MILF 114th Base Command, was nabbed by elements of the Western Mindanao Region Police Office and the Special Action Force at the Zamboanga International Airport. Police said he was on his way to Manila when he was arrested.

As this developed, Senior Superintendent Sonny David, Deputy Regional Director for Operations and concurrent commander of Task Force Band-it based in Jolo, Sulu also alerted the Sulu Provincial Police Office under Senior Superintendent Antonio Mendoza, to assist Task Force Canizares by providing intelligence monitoring and setting up more checkpoints in strategic areas.

President Arroyo hailed Canizares as a hero who died in the line of duty and ordered the military and police to launch a massive manhunt for his killers.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez said Mrs. Arroyo “sympathizes and deeply condoles with the family of Gabriel Canizares” and has ordered the authorities to launch a massive manhunt for the perpetrators of the beheading.

“The President has always been giving importance to the heroism of our school teachers and other workers in government,” Golez told a news briefing.

“Sadly, one of our heroes became a victim of a heinous crime in Sulu,” he said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo has ordered the Armed Forces and the PNP to form a task group to investigate the incident and undertake a “massive manhunt for the people responsible for this heinous crime.”

The government vowed to avenge the death of the school principal.

“We shall make them pay for the enormity of this savagery,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo.

She said authorities were determined to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf group’s heinous and inhumane atrocities.

Teachers blame the government

The organization of public school teachers in Western Mindanao blamed government neglect for the beheading of Canizares.

Abelardo Brutas, secretary-general of the Teachers Organizations for Public Secondary Schools (TOPSS), also condemned the Abu Sayyaf for the murder of the school principal.

“It was a very sad story for us. We cannot accept for a civilized society like ours that this barbaric act is happening,” Brutas said.

Brutas blamed the government’s negligence for allowing the abduction of Canizares and other local public school teachers who were previously kidnapped in Mindanao.

He complained that the government had concentrated efforts on the kidnapping of Irish priest Michael Sinnott.

Rogue members of the MILF kidnapped Fr. Sinnott, 79, an Irish Columban missionary, in Pagadian City last Oct. 11 and the priest is reportedly being held in the Lanao areas.

Brutas said a similar case happened during the kidnapping of three teachers in Zamboanga City, and government focus was on the abduction of three Red Cross workers in Sulu early this year.

The Department of Education (DepEd) and teachers’ groups expressed shock over the beheading of the principal, condemning it as a senseless act of violence against a dedicated educator.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said that the entire DepEd family grieves with the family of Canizares, whom he said was one of the department’s best performing principals.

“The entire DepEd family is shocked and grieves with the family of Gabriel Canizares. A key catalyst in teacher training with Synergia in Sulu, he is a great loss to efforts to improve the quality of education of our children in the area,” Lapus said.

“We condemn this heinous act committed against the people of ARMM. Violence creates more sufferings and sabotaging education by harming teachers will have dire consequences in the attainment of peace and progress,” Lapus added.

Antonio Tinio, chairman of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, also condemned the killing of Canizares.

“We are shocked and outraged by the killing of principal Canizares. We offer our condolences to his family and the school and community that he served,” said Tinio.

Tinio said that they were saddened over the government’s continued failure to extend protection to the thousands of teachers, especially those in Mindanao. With Roel Pareño, Rainier Allan Ronda, Paolo Romero, Mike Frialde, Cecile Suerte Felipe, AP

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