MANILA, Philippines — A teacher and a poll watcher, who died in a school torched by policemen in Taysan town in Batangas province in May, have been posthumously conferred the Order of the Golden Heart by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The award, one of the highest honors given by the government to civilians, was conferred on Nelly Banaag, for 22 years a teacher at the Pinagbayanan Elementary School, and poll watcher Leticia Ramos, “in recognition of their courage and sacrifice in defending the sanctity of the ballot.”
It was received by their respective widowers and children.
Banaag and Ramos, now considered heroes of the May 14 elections, were trapped and died in one of the classrooms that were razed at dawn of May 15, just as the teachers had finished canvassing the votes.
The torched school was subsequently named in Banaag’s honor.
Special Operations Group
Ms Arroyo and Education Secretary Jesli Lapus traveled to Taysan on May 18 to attend the necrological rites for Banaag and Ramos and to extend financial benefits to their families.
During her visit, Ms Arroyo ordered Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Calderon to ensure swift justice for the two women by filing charges against the masked men who had fired their guns and set the school ablaze.
The men, believed to be members of the PNP Regional Special Operations Group in Batangas, were linked to reelectionist Mayor Hernando Villena of Taysan.
Calderon earlier identified the suspects as Chief Insp. Robert Marinda, head of the RSOG team in Batangas, and his deputy, Senior Police Officer 2 William Relos, and three other RSOG members.
He said in May that Villena, who had failed to win reelection, was considered a suspect for being the possible mastermind.
Banaag’s family received close to P600,000 in insurance benefits and financial assistance from the Department of Education, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Government Service Insurance System.
During the necrological services, a GSIS official gave Banaag’s family about P262,000, representing the partial payment for her life insurance and survivorship benefits. The official said the family would also receive a monthly pension of P4,100.
Lapus gave P200,000 as life insurance, and P50,000 and P20,000 from the central and regional DepEd offices, respectively.
Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral also gave an unspecified amount as DSWD assistance.