DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A group has called on the government to recognize the law that prohibits the military and all its instrumentalities of utilizing schools as garrisons.
In a recent statement released to the media, the Save Our School Network in Southern Mindanao cited the case as seen in a video during a skirmish between the army and the New People’s Army in Sitio Tibucag, Barangay Dagahoy in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte where the military used the lumad school as their barracks.
SOS referred to the provisions of Republic Act 7610 or the Act Providing Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, particularly Article 10, Section 22 (e).
“We must recognize (that) this law is provided to ensure the protection of civilians, most especially children, in this time where the armed conflict must be in places away from populated communities,” the group said.
RA 7610, particularly the quoted section states that “public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and rural health units shall not be utilized for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments and supply depots.”
But SOS expressed the belief that what had happened in Tibucag is also taking place in other lumad communities and schools in Mindanao.
“The military encampment in schools and communities endangers the lives of the civilian communities,” SOS emphasized, adding that the state forces in the country have been ignoring the law as they are camping inside the lumad schools and in houses in Talaingod.
The fact is that since the opening of the school this year, SOS was able to record six cases of military encampment in Salugpongan Ta Tunu Igkanugon Community Learning Center schools in the areas of Sitio Km 17, Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod which took place last May 26, 2018; in Sitio Km 30 in Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod; and in Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod last May 29.
The group added that the Salugpongan School in Sitio Tibucag, Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod was utilized three times by the military as their camp, specifically on May 29, June 6 and June 13, 2018.
Aside from the school, the soldiers had also established a detachment around 10-20 meters away from the school and Tibucag but within the site where the residents stay, the SOS added.
“For several years the residents in Sitio Tibucag have long been used as ‘shield’ during military operations. Residents revealed that soldiers have ordered them to stay inside their homes to avoid rebel attacks,” the group said, adding that three battalions of soldiers are now deployed in Talaingod town.
The militarization in Talaingod has turned lumad residents into prisoners in their own community as the armed soldiers roam and constantly monitor their movements, including that of the teachers and students at lumad schools, the SOS denounced.
As a result of intensified military operations in the area, 13 out of 21 schools of Salugpongan have failed to commence classes, the group claimed.
“We need to ask why the Lumad in Talaingod are the ones being intimidated and being endangered by this state of militarization. We need to challenge Education Secretary Leonor Briones, to go beyond promoting the trivial GMRC courses (Good Manners and Right Conduct), but rather she should enforce RA7610 in protecting Lumad schools,” the SOS continued.
The group also dared President Rodrigo Duterte to retract its call of bombing lumad schools.
“We support the communities’ demand for the military to pull out from their communities and stop the attacks on schools,” the SOS said. (davaotoday.com)