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Daily rains and a damaged landslide wall threatened to spill rocks and earth onto “an entire class of fourth year students and teachers” at a school in Zamboanga del Sur.
But one woman—the school’s very own principal—was determined to rally the local government into action once and for all.
Last week, Otto Lingue National High School principal Tess Tarranza created an online petition on “social action platform” Change.org to have local authorities fix the landslide wall.
The open letter was addressed it to Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co; Zamboanga del Sur Congressman Victor Yu; and the Department of Education and the Department of Public Works and Highways in Pagadian City.
The petition reads, “It is… our hope that appropriate action will be extended to the school the soonest possible time as the feeling of helplessness is felt (if not) for the Divine Intervention.”
It received 1,600 signatures within 24 hours and was vastly shared Facebook and Twitter. As of press time, it has gained 2,737 supporters.
The online campaign was launched with the help of Faye Reyes of CheckMySchool.org, a website that “helps citizens access information, send feedback, and resolve issues on education services.”
While members of the local City Engineer’s office did an ocular survey of the crumbling wall in July, it was not until the petition was initiated that the government finally began “official work to address the problem in the long term.” The Mines and Geosciences Bureau will also hold its own investigation next week.
According to Change.org Pilipinas, the students, teachers, and facilities have been “transferred to safer and higher grounds.” They will temporarily hold classes in tents as their old building and landslide wall are being repaired.
On the petition, Pagadian City local Anthony Regis wrote that he supported the move “for the safety of the students as well as the teachers. I personally see the school, and if you could only have the opportunity to look at it, you will fear what might happen (to the teachers and students).”
As for Mandaluyong City resident Jenie Kory Amate, the “school is our children’s second home; we need to be assured that they are safe (all the) time.”
Lloyd Flores of Taguig City also commented, “The government has a special role not just in promoting education among young Filipinos, but also in assuring the safety and security of the students in their schools. This young generation should always be our top priority because they are the future leaders of the country. So to Zamboanga del Sur Congressman Victor Yu and Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co, let us be a good example to them. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, local government officials, school officials, and parents were among the stakeholders present at a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, where they talked about disaster preparedness and solutions to the landslide issue.
“If not for this petition, these local officials would not have responded as urgently as they have done now,” said Reyes. In fact, the online campaign was Tarranza’s “last-ditch effort after countless appeals to authorities were ignored.”
“I am feeling very happy and relieved because of the local government’s commitment to save our school, as well as the overwhelming support we received online,” said Tarranza.
“This is a significant victory because it shows how people with the least power in society are empowered to hold public officials accountable and compel them to take action.”