DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Lumad leaders condemned the continued closure and threat of closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao.
This was expressed by Lumad group Pasaka Federation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao in a statement they issued on Thursday, May 23, in time for the commemoration of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
The statement was signed by Lumad leaders from Southern Mindanao, to include Jong Monzon, the Pasaka Secretary-General; Datu Kaylo Bontolan of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon; Bae Jenelyn Bueno of Sabokahan Women; and Datu Mentroso Malibato of Karadyawan.
The group also denounced the seemingly “silent collusion of government agencies” on the closure of 56 Lumad schools in Mindanao.
The closure forced around 2,209 Lumad students to drop out from schools, Pasaka added.
The group also lambasted the shameless act of the military of by forcing 1,106 students, teachers and parents to claim themselves as “rebel surrenderees.”
Pasaka avowed to the “sacredness” of Lumad schools scattered in various parts of Mindanao, as these abodes for learning were “built with our blood, our strength, and our courage.”
“It expresses not only our aspiration that our young generation attains formal education, but also our struggle for self-determination,” the group added.
With such deep regard to the impact of Lumad schools to the future of their children, Pasaka said threats, especially coming from the government to completely annihilate it, is also regarded as an attack to the dreams of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).
“We condemn the military’s arrest of teacher Jolita Tolina from CLANS school in Sultan Kudarat as she faces false charges. We also condemn that the agriculturist of our Salugpongan school Dominiciano Muya is still languishing in jail for three years facing trumped-up charges,” the statement emphasized.
Pasaka slammed the continued red-tagging hurled by the government against Lumad leaders and members, averring that “We are a tribe that has practiced our culture and our own system of governance.”
“It is outrageous that the military denies their hand in all these atrocities against our people and our school. Amidst their denial, they continue to oppress us, throw us to jail and even silence us through bullets and depriving our rights,” the statement added.
Despite the heightened military activities in most areas in Mindanao that largely affect IP communities, Pasaka said they will continue to defend their land and schools.
“Our fight to defend our lands is not just our fight, because we protect the source of life, of food that nurtures the people in this region, the farmers and urban poor who are also fighting for their right to life,” Pasaka said.
The group also demanded to President Rodrigo Duterte “to stop uttering words of peace, but instead, address the root causes of armed conflict and go back to peace talks.” (davaotoday.com)