President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday joined world leaders in expressed shock and horror after a gunman massacred 20 small children and six teachers on Friday in the US state of Connecticut, in one of the worst school shootings in history.
At least 28 people, including 20 children, were killed when a man armed with sophisticated handguns walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and opened fire on anyone in sight, in yet another public shooting that has left the world shocked and calling for stricter gun-control laws.
“At this time of the deepest mourning over the tragic loss of life in Connecticut, I extend the deepest sympathy and solidarity to the families of those who lost loved ones in Sandy Hook Elementary School,” President Aquino said in a televised statement.
“Together with the entire Filipino people, we stand beside you with bowed heads, yet in deep admiration [for] the manner [by] which the American people have reached out to comfort the afflicted, and to search for answers that will give meaning and hope to this grim event,” Mr. Aquino said.
“We pray for healing, and that this heartbreak will never be visited on any community ever again,” he said.
No Filipino victims
The Philippine Embassy in the United States was trying to find out if some people of Filipino descent were among the slain or injured in the shooting.
In a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. said the Philippine Consulate General in New York was accounting for Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who lived in the Connecticut area.
“From what we know, there are no elementary-aged Filipinos or Filipino-Americans going to Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Cuisia said.
“Those of school age either go to other elementary schools or are in middle school, high school or college,” Cuisia said, citing an early report from the New York consulate.
The information indicates that 16,402 Filipinos or Filipino-Americans live in Connecticut. One hundred Filipino or Filipino-American families live in Danbury, a town 15 minutes away from Newtown. Seven Filipino or Filipino-American families live in Newtown.
Cuisia said most of the Filipinos in Newtown were nurses, doctors and engineers. No Filipinos in Newtown are known to be teachers, he said.
“Just the same we want to be sure that all the Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in Newtown are safe,” Cuisia said.
The Philippine Embassy expressed its sympathy to the United States for the tragedy.
“We join the government of the United States and the American people in mourning the loss of so many innocent lives,” Cuisia said.
“Our hearts go to the families of those who lost loved ones in this tragedy,” he said.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon wrote to Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy to give his “deepest condolences at the shocking murders,” a statement said.
“The targeting of children is heinous and unthinkable,” he added in condemning the “horrendous” crime.
European Union diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton expressed “shock” at the “tragic shooting.”
The head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso spoke of his “deep shock and horror” upon hearing of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which he called a “terrible tragedy.”
“The news is just awful. The thoughts and prayers of Canadians are with the students and families in [Connecticut] affected by this senseless violence,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote on his Twitter account.
“I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about today’s horrific shooting,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
“My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones. It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them.”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to President Barack Obama in which she said she was “deeply shocked and saddened” to hear of the shootings.
French President Francois Hollande also extended his condolences to the victims and their relatives in a message to Obama.
“This news … horrified me and I wish to express my deep shock and consternation,” Hollande said.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said “Australia grieves with America today following the mass shooting of primary school children and teachers in Connecticut.
“Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken.” Gillard said. With reports from Michael Lim Uban and AFP