DAVAO CITY – The administrator of a Lumad (indigenous peoples or IPs) school said the social welfare secretary and the IP commission must do their jobs “instead of pretending to know about the situation.”

“For almost a year now, Lumad communities have been asking government agencies for help yet they did not lift a finger,” said Ronnie Garcia, basic education in-charge of Salugpungan Ta Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center Incorporated (STTILCI).

Garcia was reacting to a press release of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman.

Soliman “condemned certain non-government organizations and faith-based groups in the Davao region for their move to use indigenous children in rallies that compromised not only the children’s welfare, but also their rights.”

Soliman said “their rally camp is in front of DepEd (Department of Education)-Davao. These kids are getting wet under the rain and they don’t eat. These children should be in school. It is not right to bring these children to rallies.”

Soliman said she will ask the Commission on Human Rights “to look at the condition of the children and the groups.”

Garcia scoffed at Soliman, saying “it merely shows that Soliman do not know what she is talking about. First, there is no school to go back to. The Salugpungan schools are being attacked.”

“Since August last year, we have reported the harrasments, the red tagging and the threats. But, where were the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples?),” said Garcia.

Garcia said “the children have all the right to participate in protests especially when the government is not doing its job for them and instead oppressing them, denying them their right to education.”

“Soliman should instead urge the military to stop harassing us if she truly cares about the people’s welfare. She sings the same tune as the military,” said Garcia.

Garcia also reacted to a news report quoting NCIP Chair Leonor Quintayo that IP education must be “culture-based” and that “subjects being taught are culture-sensitive” and that the indigenous communities must be “consulted.”

Quintayo said the “children might be at risk if we tolerate of enrolling themselves in schools without permit.”

Garcia said since the schools’ operation, they have complied with the “voluminous” requirements of DepEd and are sometimes “not apt for IP communities like electrical permits in schools without electricity.”

“We have submitted our requirements to the national IPSEO (IPs Education Office) of DepEd national. Maybe the NCIP did not bother to look at it when it hurled unfounded accusations,” he said.

Garcia said their development of a curriculum for the community already started in 2007.

“I can say we are more advanced with other IP schools at the national level. It is because the Salugpungan schools serve its owners, the community. Everything we developed is grounded,” he said.

Garcia said their curriculum “has been used as the basis of the IP education framework by the DepEd national office which it only finalized in 2011.”

“We have attended all the trainings, seminars and conferences for the IP curriculum,” he said.
Garcia said he “did not sense the involvement of the NCIP in all these processes.”

“We did not just do consultation, we are with the community. Every decision is made by the Salugpungan leaders,” he said.

Garcia said the NCIP “reminders” of having consultations is “good.”

“Salugpungan communities have also been waiting for decades when the NCIP would go down to them and consult them on the militarization that has been happening,” said Garcia.

Garcia said “all these talks and complexities of a permit is nothing if the communities are not at peace.”

“The NCIP can also go to the farthest community, about two to three days walk, to consult them about the school curriculum if it is really serious,” he said.

Meanwhile, Garcia said the DepEd Regional Office XI has already shown them a copy of a certification saying they have complied with requirements for the permit Monday in Davao City.

“But they did not give a copy to us. They even broke their own protocol and told us to get (it) in the Division (Davao del Norte). In turn, the Division also broke protocol and told us to get it at the District Level,” he said.

Garcia said the move “shows what the meaning of care for the lumad children these agencies are talking about.”

“Why make us go to a whole lot of trouble if they really cared. They should have made the process faster, helped us in every step of the way before the classes started, but they allowed it to happen. The children are now not in their schools thanks to them,” he said.

Garcia said a big Davao City university has provided their pupils with a place to continue their education.

Garcia said there are about 89 students from another IP school, the Misfi (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated) Academy, and 50 students from Salugpungan who attended their “multi-grade” classes.

He said they have two teachers handling daycare to grade three pupils in the said school.
“Despite the obstacles the children need to be educated. That’s how Salugpungan does it,” he said (davaotoday.com)

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