DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Department of Education here on Wednesday, February 14 said the alleged militarization of Lumad, or tribal, schools were not true.
“We in the DepEd say that allegations like the soldiers put up camps inside the schools are not really true,” DepEd regional spokesperson Jenelito Atillo told reporters in a media briefing at the Royal Mandaya Hotel here.
Atillo said that their ” people on the ground [said] the allegations and complaints of various groups and tribal communities were found to be negative”.
“These are plain and simple accusations that really needs solid and hard evidence,” Atillo said.
“While we accept all complaints and concerns, we also make sure that everything will go through due process,” he added, pointing that all of the issues concerning DepEd 11 are being validated.
Fact checking these accusations since way back, Atillo said, have been found to be untrue.
Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, also supported Atillo’s statement saying that they respect DepEd’s Department Order 44 Series of 2005, recognizing schools as “zone of peace.”
Balagtey mentioned that the Department of National Defense also has its rejoinder or corresponding order to the armed forces to follow and respect schools as zones of peace.
He maintained that if soldiers or troops were seen in schools, ” it’s either they are joining clean-up drives or medical missions”.
“It is not used as camps or barracks of soldiers,” Balagtey said.
Meanwhile, Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network Mindanao said Atillo’s remarks were a “big lie.”
“Atillo’s statement proves that our concerns did not only fell on deaf ears but also shows how they treat the problems of Lumad in which they don’t want to face or solve,” Valle said.
He also insisted that if DepEd wanted “hard evidence” to prove the complaints, they can find it in their very own office as submitted by SOS Network and other groups.
“If he wants hard evidence, it’s in their office. We have submitted a lot of data, pictures and videos to prove it,” Valle said.
Valle challenged DepEd officials including Education Secretary Leonor to face them and go to the attacked schools and probe the cases.
On June 20, 2017, Ramil Miguel, a teacher of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte reported that their campus was fired upon by Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member Rodel Butanlog and vowed to torch the school upon his return. The incident resulted in the suspension of classes, and the evacuation of students to Davao City.
The military earlier reported that the said CAFGU member was dismissed but eventually denied the allegations, saying that the strife between the Lumad were related to tribal wars or “pangayaw.”
WATCH RELATED VIDEO: Witness says gunman in Lumad school shooting apologized for ‘obeying orders’
Some 100 Lumad students and teachers of STTILCLCI)and the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation (MISFI) Academy from Davao del Norte set up makeshift camps in the office of the Department of Public Works and Highways compound in Panacan here and outside DepEd regional office to condemn the silence of DepEd amidst the alleged continuing attacks on schools by military and paramilitary group.
On September 5, 2017, SOS Network reported that 19-year old Lumad student Obillo Bay-ao was allegedly killed by a CAFGU member in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod. Obillo was a grade six student of the STTICLC in Sitio Dulyan.
Not closing doors
Despite DepEd’s claims, Atillo assured that the office is not closing its doors to complaints for a possible violation of the rules.
“If ever there is really a violation, DepEd is open to listen to all those concerns but then again ensuring due process,” Atillo said.
He cited that one of the priorities of DepEd 11 is to put up schools in far-flung communities.
“We do not limit actually to the applications. If we see that there is a need to establish, there’s a need to put up, we communicate it out with the DepEd office. We initiate for them to also discuss matters with the community,” he said.
To date, he said more or less 300 schools were established in Davao region since the assumption of Attorney Alberto Escobarte as regional director. (davaotoday.com)