DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The military claimed they captured two volunteer Lumad school teachers in an encounter with guerrilla forces in Paquibato District, a claim disputed by the Save Our Schools Network as another propaganda spin to discredit Lumad schools.
The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network confirmed the identity of the two teachers, Geliejorain Ngojo and Nasria Bansil, who are former scholars of MISFI Academy (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.) who had served in Lumad schools in Bukidnon province before the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Eastern Mindanao Command claimed in a report they captured Ngojo and Bansil in an encounter between the 27th Infantry Battalion and the New People’s Army at Sitio Quibolog, Barangay Mapula in Paquibato District on November 14.
The City Government of Davao, in a statement, claimed that Ngojo and Bansil taught in the “bakwit school” in UCCP Haran and claimed the church and MISFI played “active roles” in the alleged recruitment of the two to join the rebel group.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has claimed that Lumad schools and UCCP Haran had been recruiting the Lumad youth to join the NPA.
SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said their group still had to ascertain the facts surrounding the arrests of the two, but criticized how the military and local government had circulated their story with the pictures of Ngojo and Bansil.
“It remains undignified to circulate the pictures of said teachers and falsely tag them as NPA in public.They should have been given proper treatment in accordance with the law. Their families should have been notified, and they should have been provided counsel. This is an underhanded move to influence public opinion against the two teachers and against Lumad schools in general,” Valle said.
Save Our Schools clarified that the two served as volunteer teachers for Lumad schools in Bukidnon after earning their Education degree from Lyceo de Davao in 2018, and did not teach in the “bakwit school” in UCCP Haran compound, Davao City, contrary to the military’s claim.
The group believed that such “malicious maneuvers” and “dubious claims” by the military and the local government are meant “to demonize” Lumad schools and their teachers.
“This aims to justify the persecution and attacks aimed at Lumad communities and organizations who have, for decades, advocated for the education and development of indigenous communities,” it said.
As the country reels from the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the group revealed that almost all teachers and students of Lumad schools returned to their homes or worked elsewhere due to the schools’ closure during the lockdown.
Attacks against Lumad schools intensified when President Duterte declared after his State of the Nation Address in 2017 that he will bomb the schools for allegedly being fronts of the rebels.
SOS noted that 178 Lumad schools had been closed under Duterte’s watch as part of the military’s red-tagging campaign. The closures and harassment on Lumad schools and students continue in this pandemic, particularly against MISFI Academy schools in Bukidnon and North Cotabato. (davaotoday.com)AFP, armed forces of the philippines, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, duterte, Haran evacuation, Human Rights, indigenous people, lumad, Mindanao, misfi, NTF-ELCAC, Red-tagging, Save Our Schools Network