DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to declare the New People’s Army as a terrorist group have caused a chilling effect to the Lumad children in Mindanao, progressive groups said.
In separate statements, child rights group Save Our Schools (SOS) Network and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns (Salinlahi) both raised their concern after Duterte made such statement last week.
Doing so, the said, would only put the lives of Lumad children in peril.
“Such statement will only further intensify the implementation of US-patterned counter-insurgency operation Oplan Kapayapaan against the people and their children, especially in areas where the people’s resistance is flourishing,” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinalhi secretary general.
Several schools in Mindanao have been “red-tagged” by authorities, among them include the Mindanao Interaith Services Foundation Inc (MISFI). In September, the school reported there were five armed men who allegedly entered their school compound in Indangan, causing fear for their safety.
In the same month, a 19-year-old Lumad student, a grade six student of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, was shot dead in Davao del Norte.
Earlier, the President also announced publicly that he will bomb the structures where the Lumad students study. A police official, though, defended Duterte’s words, saying it should not be taken literally.
But incidents like these have caused a massive displacement of Lumad children, causing interruption of classes as the assault on tribal learning facilities across Mindanao continue, said Bonganay.
On top of that, Rius Valle, SOS Network Mindanao spokesperson, said these schools also face challenges in complying with government standards as the Department of Education (DepEd) has refused to grant or renew the permits to operate of these schools.
“Secretary Briones should condemn AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) attacks on Lumad schools, investigate cases of connivance between DepEd regional offices, AFP and local government units upon closing down lumad schools,” said Valle.
The SOS claims that there are 222 Lumad schools spread out in the hinterlands of Mindanao. The group said the schools’ curriculum is tailored-fit to the needs of the Lumad while being compliant to DepEd’s Indigenous People’s Education Program (IPED). (davaotoday.com)