DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Department of Education in Region 11 said it cannot intervene on the reported attacks on Lumad schools and teachers in the region as the concern is out of their mandate.
Hundreds of students and teachers have mounted a protest camp since last week near the military headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Command to condemn several cases of harassment on schools for indigenous school children in the region.
The Association of Community Educators, a grassroots organization of teachers and school administrators, reported a series of harassments against Lumad educational institutions in the region by alleged paramilitary forces and soldiers in a letter they submitted to the regional office of DepEd last June 16.
However, in a letter reply also dated June 16, Atty. Alberto T. Escobarte, DepEd 11 regional director, said the issues raised by the ACE “apparently belong to other government agencies or investigative bodies.”
“(The) Regional Office sincerely suggests that your concern shall be directed to the proper authorities to include the Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights and Department of National Defense since the subjects of your complaint are the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Escobarte said.
Escobarte also added that the concern be referred to the Schools Division Superintendents who has responsibility in “supervising the operations of all public and private elementary, secondary and integrated learning centers” in their areas.
He said they have already asked the Schools Division Office to “act on those issues and concern within the limit of authority.”
The letter reply of the DepEd was received by a group of Lumad educators who trooped to the office of the Regional Director on Monday, more than two weeks since the reply was written.
Davao Today tried to contact DepEd Davao Del Norte’s Superintendent Dr. Josephine Fadul who has yet to issue a statement.
In their letter submitted to the DepEd regional office, the teachers cited the case of 26-year old Manobo high school teacher, Ramil Miguel, who was interrogated by Rodel Butanlog, a member of the CAFGU about the legal documents and operations of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. on June 1 in Barangay Nasilaban, Talaingod town in Davao del Norte.
“The forceful entry of Butanlog is a clear and an outright insult to the educational institution,” the group said.
On June 2, ACE said soldiers also harassed community members in Nasilaban and “disseminated malicious and false accusations against the school.”
The school, they said, is branded by the military as a school run by the New People’s Army.
“They threatened the locals not to attend Salugpungan’s Brigada Eskwela and kept on insisting that the parents must withdraw their support from the school,” it said.
Last June 5, ACE said Lorena Mandacawan, secretary of the school’s Parent Teachers Community Association and a former student of STTICLCI, Arnold Dalin were blocked by soldiers and members of paramilitary groups “Alamara” while they were on their way to attend the Brigada Eskwela, a back-to-school program by the DepEd to prepare schools for the opening of classes.
The group claimed that Butanlog, the same militiaman who threatened a teacher, pointed his gun on Mandacawan.
As of June 25, 2017, the Save Our Schools Network has documented 50 cases of attacks against Lumad schools in Mindanao. The cases included indiscriminate firing, red tagging, military encampment, and threat of school closure.
Miguel told Davao Today in an interview on Monday that they hope the DepEd will issue their stand on the harassment that their school is experiencing since 2014.
“Klaro nga nanghugas sila sa ilahang responsibilidad, wala nila gigampanan isip isa ka institusyon, mao akong pagtan-aw (I think the DepEd is washing their hands off their responsibility in this issue),” he said.
Miguel pointed out that aside from granting them permit to operate, the DepEd has responsibility to ensure the security of school children.
Miguel said today is his eighth time to visit DepEd’s regional office to raise the same issue of harassment that their school has experienced since 2014.
As of June this year, he said this is their third time to raise the issue of harassment to DepEd. Miguel said ACE has tried to have a dialogue with DepEd on June 16, June 30 and this Monday, July 3.
The group also forwarded a copy of the letter addressed to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday while Lumad students held a protest action in front of the DepEd regional office along Torres Street.
Miguel said, in a dialogue last year, DepEd has vowed to raise the issue to the DepEd National Office.
DepEd Region 11 Spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said they did not take the issue sitting down, adding that they immediately forwarded the issue to “appropriate government agencies.”
“We did not take it sitting down, we referred it to the concerned agencies,” Atillo told Davao Today in an interview on Monday.
“Matters like this actually do not fall into the mandate of the DepEd. Our responsibility is focused in facilitating and managing education, but when it comes to alleged harassments of some people, we suggest to the group to refer these cases to appropriate government agencies,” he said.
Atillo said the appropriate government agencies include the AFP, Department of Justice, and Commission on Human Rights.
He said they also referred previous reports about harassments of Lumad schools were forwarded to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
“This is already way, way beyond our mandate,” he said.
Atillo said the DepEd has granted 68 permits to private institutions which provides education to Lumad students in the far-flung communities in Region 11, including 55 permits granted to STTCILCI’s campuses.(davaotoday.com)