MANILA, Philippines – Lumad communities in Mindanao have been sending distress calls as government forces and paramilitary groups stage direct attacks on schools in tribal villages.
They said these attacks and threats were heightened when President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao.
In a rally at the Department of Education on Monday, Sept. 4, the Save Our Schools Network said they have already submitted the cases of attacks on schools operated by private organizations in Lumad communities in Mindanao.
But they said their calls turned out unheard especially on the side of the government as Education Secretary Leonor Briones failed to respond.
The SOS Network said they recorded a total of nine cases of military encampments in lumad schools in Davao del Norte; one case in Davao City; one in Agusan del Sur; one in Surigao del Sur; one in Sultan Kudarat; and six in Compostela Valley.
The group also recorded 55 cases of military threats, harassments, and intimidations were also recorded in Northern Mindanao or in Region 10; 719 cases in Davao Region; 867 cases in Region 12; and 112 cases in Caraga or Region 13.
“Briones and the national agency she represents are inutile in protecting student rights,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of SOS Network in a statement on Monday.
SOS Network is among the participants to this year’s Lakbayan of National Minorities.
Valle said when President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools in a press conference on the day of his second State of the Nation Address, an estimate of 3,271 Lumad were forced to evacuate their homes due to intensified military operations.
Duterte accused the Lumad schools of teaching subversion and Communism and do not have permits from the DepEd
Malacañang has identified the schools as ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development), Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, Inc. (CLANS), Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc. (ALCADEV) ug Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc.
However, the Federation of Community Schools PTCA in Mindanao issued a statement on August 2, 2017 saying these schools are all operating legally.
“Gusto namong tin-aw nga ipaabot ngadto sa palasyo sa Malacanang nga ang mga eskwelahang lumad dili ilegal ug subersibo. Ang among mga tulunghaan naga operate subay sa mga balaod ug polisiya sa gobyerno sa republika sa Pilipinas timaan niana ang gatusan ka permit to operate, recognition and awards nga among naangkon gikan mismo sa Department of Education,” said Datu Mentroso T. Malibato, chairperson of the Federation.
(We want to make it clear that these Lumad schools are not illegal and subversive. All our schools operate base on the policies of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, proof of this are the hundreds of permit to operate, recognition and awards we got from the Department of Education.)
The Association of Community Educators in Mindanao also said that Lumad schools have all pertinent documents, including those coming from the Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems of the DepED, business permits among others.
Target of attacks
The SOS Network said the government’s labeling of these schools as owned by the New People’s Army has put the lives of students and teachers in danger.
Valle told Davao Today that: “The military uses red-tagging as an excuse to attack students and teachers.”
He said the schools have become “deliberate targets of the state because they don’t want Lumad people to be empowered and fight to defend their lands.”
The group’s data showed there were 401 Lumad students and 29 volunteer teachers were victims of indiscriminate firing reportedly committed by the military and paramilitary groups; 273 lumad students and 27 teachers were also affected by destruction of schools and other private property reportedly committed by state forces, and 39 schools forcibly closed due to military threats and DepED’s “policy imposing its own curriculum to lumad schools.”
The children’s group Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concern also joined Monday’s protest to express dismay over the DepED’s inaction amidst the continuing military attacks on lumad schools.
“As the education chief, Secretary Briones is expected to defend Lumad community schools against military occupation and attacks. However, her silence and ineptness have further legalized these malicious accusations,” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi Secretary General.
Salinlahi said the community schools are expression of the Lumad’s right to self-determaination and to restrain such schools “undermines this inherent and inviolable right.”
Meanwhile, progressive women’s organization GABRIELA raised suspicion that DepED is “in cahoots with the military” in attacking lumad schools in Mindanao.
“Instead of resolving to help the Lumad children and teachers get back their schools, order the military out, and restore normal academic life, the DepEd has been conniving with the army in threatening communities or pressuring the teachers to transfer to other DepEd system schools,” GABRIELA said in a statement.
Valle said they met with Briones in August last year where the education secretary promised to look into their reports.
DepEd has not yet issued a statement on the issues raised by the groups as of posting time. (davaotoday.com)