Lumad students from Mindanao who are part of this year’s Lakbayan of National Minorities picket the Department of Education’s office on Monday, Sept. 4, to protest the continuing threats and harassment against Lumad schools in Mindanao. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)

TAGUM CITY, Philippines—The Department of Education on Thursday denied allegations from children’s rights organization that it​ has neglected​ schools serving the indigenous peoples (IP) across the country.

In a statement, DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said the agency has issued a number of policies on the operationalization of the rights of IP learners in the country.

Among the orders promulgated by the education department were DepEd Order No. (DO) 62, s. 2011, an order adopting the National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Education Policy Framework, ; DO 21, s. 2014, an order containing the guidelines on the Recognition of Private Learning Institutions Serving Indigenous Peoples Learners, DO 32, s. 2015 which is an order adopting the Indigenous Peoples Education Curriculum Framework.

“DepEd maintains its position that schools and all learning institutions are zones of peace where students and teaching personnel must feel secure in their pursuit of quality basic education,” Briones said.

She added that DepEd has been actively campaigning for the Philippines to sign the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

DepEd’s “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use” was the subject of criticism of human rights group and child advocates group because it legitimizes the attacks on Lumad students and teachers.

The controversial guidelines contained in DepEd Memorandum 221, according to Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, allows military to enter and encamp in schools, a claim denied by DepEd since 2013 during the term of then education secretary Armin Luistro.

SOS is now seeking anew the revocation of DepEd Memorandum 221 and criticizing DepEd for what they call as a supposed “inaction” despite the public’s clamor to revoke the memorandum.

The group said that DepEd “should act and not be complacent on the continuing cases of military attacks against Lumad community schools in Mindanao.”

Relita Malundras, spokesperson of SOS Network – National, said that the education secretary has repeatedly ignored their call to rescind DepEd Memo 221 which paves way “to various forms of human rights violations such as killings of students and teachers and forcible evacuation.”

The group vowed to continue their protest actions until Briones revoke the memorandum.

But DepEd maintained that it was “crafted and developed through consultations among various states as an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict.”

Apart from SOS, Salinlahi has also expressed its dismay against Briones’ “complacency” over the continuing and intensifying cases of military and para-military attacks on schools and communities.

For instance in Davao region, more than 100 Lumad students are still staying in “bakwit” school inside the UP Diliman campus because of the continued militarization in their ancestral lands, according to SOS Network – Southern Mindanao Region spokesperson Rius Valle.

“Just this Sept. 5, 2017, a grade six Lumad student, Obello Bay-ao was shot to death by CAGFU and AFP-trained paramilitary group Alamara only 50 meters away from their school,” Valle said.

“Under the Duterte administration, 39 lumad schools were forcibly closed down by state forces. Attacks against Lumad schools also intensified after the declaration of Martial law in Mindanao and Duterte’s threat to bomb community schools” Valle added.

SOS and Salinlahi staged a protest action in front of the Department of Education earlier this week to call for the revocation of the said memorandum.(davaotoday.com)

  • Camilo A. Andi Jr.

    I hope that some IP schools not registered with DepEd should register their school, to avoid incidents like what happened to other IP school ordered closed by PRRD.

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