DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Save Our Schools Network said it was assured by the Commission on Human Rights that it will investigate the reported attacks of Lumad schools and communities in Mindanao when CHR chairperson Chito Gascon visited them on Saturday, Aug. 5.
Rius Valle, spokesperson of SOS Network said the CHR visited the temporary camp set up by the Lumad and their support groups at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City and apologized to the Lumad.
Valle quoted Gascon as saying: “Kung ano man ang kakulangan sa nakaraan, humihingi kami ng paumanhin. Humihingi kami ng dispensa at pipilitin namin sa abot ng aming makakaya na matugonan kayo, kung nasaan kayo (We are sorry for whatever lapses or lack of attention that CHR might have committed. We will try our best to assist you).”
Valle said Gascon told the Lumad that they will double their efforts in accommodating Lumad complaints of human rights violations.
“The CHR said they will review and fast track cases filed by the Lumads in their regional counterparts,” Valle said.
Jong Monzon, spokesperson of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao reported to Gascon that when the regional office of the CHR visited the Lumad evacuees then housed at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound, the CHR staff present were “malicious” in their questioning.
“Sabi ng mga bata, parang mga militar daw sila kung magtanong, kaya natakot sila” (The children said that the
CHR staff asked questions seemingly like the military, that’s why they were afraid” said Monzon.
Monzon has urged the CHR to investigate and go to their communities for them to be able to see for themselves the extent of human rights violations. He added that conducting investigation in evacuation site is insufficient.
“Yung mga CHR sa region, dun lang kasi sa evacuation site nag-iimbestiga, mas mainam talaga na puntahan nyo ang mga komunidad namin para kayo na mismo makapagvalidate dun sa mga reklamo namin sa paglabag ng aming mga karapatan (The regional CHR investigates only in the evacuation site, it would be better if they go to our communities so they can validate our complaints on abuses done to us),” Monzon added.
Meanwhile, Bai Eufemia Cullamat, a lumad spokesperson in CARAGA Region expressed dismay over the lack of attention from the CHR office in the region.
“Daku kaayo among pagkadismaya sa CHR kay sa pila ka tuig og daghan na kaayo mi’g gi-file pero wala gihapon (We are very dismayed because over the years we have filed complaints to the CHR, but no action has been taken to address the complaints),” Cullamat said.
The SOS Network has documented 342 cases of attacks on Lumad schools run by private organizations from 2012-2015. During the first year of President Rodrigo Duterte, the network has documented 83 cases of attacks mostly in schools located in southern Mindanao region.
After his second State of the Nation Address on July 25, President Duterte said the schools are teaching subversion and Communism to students.
He asked the students to go out of the schools because he will order the government forces to bomb it since it is operating without a permit, which the SOS Network said is a lie because the DepEd in Davao region granted permits to Lumad schools this year. (davaotoday.com)