SEVERAL high school students were hurt in a protest action at the Department of Education (DepEd) Central Office in Pasig City Friday.

A number of security officers assigned at the DepEd were also wounded in the ensuing melee with guards chasing the protesters outside of the department’s complex along Meralco Avenue.

Terry Ridon, secretary general of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), said one of their members, Ronald Gustillo was handcuffed.

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Five high school students, namely, Ronald Santos, Mark Gil Gamido, Ivan Bontorosto, Raymond Ubero, and James Anajao were brought to the Rizal Medical Center due to head injuries.

The five were students of the Culiat, Quirino and Ramon Magsaysay High Schools in Quezon City.

LFS Deputy Secretary General Anna Tolentino was allegedly punched by one of the security guards, causing her ear to bleed.

The students, mostly belonging to LFS and Anakbayan were seeking a dialogue with Education Secretary Armin Luistro regarding the illegal fees being collected from the students in their respective schools.

Robert Amparo, chairperson of Anakbayan-Quirino High School Chapter, recalled that in their last dialogue with then DepEd Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Franklin Sunga, the official mentioned that they will investigate the collection of fees and act on it immediately.

“So far all they did was to send letters to Culiat and Quirino High Schools. What we want is a refund of all collected fees in all public schools. In the first place, these are illegal collection,” Amparo said.

For his part, Ridon said Friday’s incident will not deter them from holding more protest actions in the coming days.

For its part, teachers group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) condemned the incident saying the students were just airing their grievances against the DepEd and its policies.

“Kasuklam-suklam ang tanawing aking nabungaran sa telebisyon na ipinapakita ang makahayop na pagtrato ng mga security guard ng DepED sa aming mga kabataang estudyante,” ACT Secretary General France Castro said.

Review of protest protocol

The DepEd said it will review the protocol on the handling of protesters to prevent a repeat of the “violent dispersal”.

In a press briefing, DepEd Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs and concurrent Spokesman Alberto Muyot said they are getting statements from the security officers as well as from the protesters.

He said this is to determine if there was any violation of the maximum tolerance policy, adding that the security guards are told to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters.

Muyot explained the incident apparently started when the students tried to push their way into the glass door in front of the DepEd main building with the guards trying to block their way.

“While the security guards were trying to find out kung sino makakausap nila, apparently the group tried to enter the glass door. They were trying to force their way with one group pushing and another trying to restrain them,” the official said.

He added that not only the students were hurt but also several of their security officers including one of their supervisors, Edilberto Santos, who sustained a cut in his lip.

Asked if the DepEd received a prior information about the dialogue with Luistro, Muyot said “there was no appointment’ and that the education chief was in Mindanao visiting schools in the region.

“Pwede naman sila magpa-iskedyul, actually sabihin lang nila kung ano ang complaint nila pwede namin puntahan ang eskuwelahan o magpadala ng opisyal na titingin sa kanilang reklamo,” he added.

It was the first such incident since Luistro assumed the top DepEd post.(AH/Sunnex)