DAVAO CITY – Teachers at schools serving indigenous peoples (IP) in remote areas in Mindanao fear for more attacks coming from paramilitary group Alamara as they received a new death threat over the weekend.
“All teachers and students will be massacred because their members (Alamara) were killed,” the basic education principal of Salugpungan Ta Anu Igkanugon Learning Center, Ronie Garcia, said, referring to the threat.
Garcia said the latest threat came last Saturday, January 23, and pointed at Almara a paramilitary group believed to be involved in the killings of indigenous peoples who were sympathizers of the New People’s Army in Mindanao, according to Human Rights Watch report in 2015.
Since December last year, teachers in Barangay Palma Gil have been receiving threats from Alamara.
“It is sad that this is happening. But the community and the teachers have to protect the children. The Alamara has gotten bolder,” said Garcia.
This threat came after the death of 15-year-old Alibando Tingkas, a Grade 3 Manobo student in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte on January 17.
Alamara is alleged to be behind the killing of the pupil, whose body was found with two gun shots in his chest.
The learning center for Lumads reported that schools in four sitios have been suspended since after the killing of Tingkas. Villagers, teachers and students have been forced to leave the schools and communities.
The suspension of classes has now affected the schooling of 243 indigenous people students.
Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon is a chain of non-formal school run by the church-based organization Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in Southern Mindanao since 2003. In Ata Manobo, the school’s name means unity in defense of ancestral land.
Yet for defending their ancestral land, the school has been tagged as an NPA-run school along with the indigenous school in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur, the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc (Alcadev).
On September 1 last year, the head of the school, Emerito Samarca, was killed allegedly as a retaliation by the IP belonging to the Magahat Bagani Force who are fighting against the NPAs. Samarca was accused of “poisoning the minds of the students” by a tribal leader who testified in the Committee hearing by the House of Representatives last year.
Meanwhile, Garcia urged government officials in the province and local agencies to act and protect the teachers and students by helping them go back to their communities and send behind bars the perpetrators of killings and harassment.
“We believe that no child or lumad community should suffer from such terror. The Alamara and the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) presence hampers the dreams of every lumad in Talaingod and any other places to achieve education, literacy and protection of the indigenous culture and social practices and their right to ancestral land and right to self-determination,” he said.
The military has repeatedly denied its involvement with paramilitary groups.
Last week, Army commander Major General Rafael Valencia said in a press conference that his command “has not organized, armed and funded any paramilitary group.”
“The 10ID is made up of regular soldiers and CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAAs) which are organized and operate in accordance with the law,” said Valencia.
SOS Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rius Valle pressed government officials to act to uphold the students’ rights to education. To do so, he said government must disband Alamara members and that local officials should ensure classes in Salugpongan schools will resume in the soonest time.
“The government is a signatory of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) that ensure the protection of children from attacks on schools and of their right to education. What the Alamara is doing now is a direct attack to the Talaingod children’s rights,” said Valle. (davaotoday.com)