DAVAO TODAY, Philippines – The Salugpongan Council denied on Tuesday that it has links with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Salugpongan Ta ‘tanu Igkanugon Council, as recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), is composed of tribal leaders who manifested their intent to establish a Lumad school in the hinterlands of Talaingod in Davao del Norte.
It was the Salugpongan Council who initiated an effort to establish lumad schools to educate the IPs in far-flung areas “for them to know how to read and write and not to take any participation with the communist.”
“Since 1965, our leaders Datu Doloman and Datu Guibang have asked the Department of Education to help us build a school but it never happened,” said Salugpongan Council member Datu Kaylo Bontolan.
Datu Kaylo Bontolan said since the establishment of the Salugpongan schools in Talaingod, it became the center of the lumad communities because of lumad education.
Datu Kaylo Bontolan in a press conference last Friday inside Haran compound said that the recent statement of the NCIP Davao del Norte against the Salugpongan schools were baseless allegation.
“Before then, we have obtained documents that could support our claim that the schools are all legal. In fact no less than former DepEd secretary Br. Armin Luistro have recognized the Salupungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. for the operation of Kindergarten, and Grades 1 to 6” added Datu kaylo.
Emmanuel Cacal, the provincial head of the NCIP Davao del Norte earlier said that the schools under Salugpongan did not obtain a free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples in the community under IPRA Law before they renew their permit to operate.
“In its renewal of the permit to operate the school did not obtain the consent of the community as required under IPRA Law” said Cacal.
Cacal also added the distinction between the permit to operate and the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples which are both important but Salugpongan’s was not able to obtain for its operation.
The FPIC actualizes and strengthens the exercise by Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) of their rights to Ancestral Domains, Social Justice and Human Rights, SelfGovernance and Empowerment, and Cultural Integrity. Under the law, it also protect the rights of ICCs/IPs in the introduction and implementation of plans, programs, projects, activities and other undertakings that will affect them and their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well-being.
The Department of Education under its Departement Order 42, S. 2004 states that under its mandate, Indigenous People (IP) schools have been encouraged to register with the DepED for mainstreaming in the educational system. However, flexibility in terms of the following requirements is recommended:
Curriculum. It should be flexible without undermining the balance between the attainment of the core learning competencies which every Filipino learner should master in the community and the indigenous culture.
Teachers. As much as possible, qualified teachers should teach the core subjects of the curriculum. However, in handling the concerns of the community, e.g. culture, traditions, songs, practices, para-teachers from the place or those who know the culture may be employed. They may not be holders of a degree in education but experienced or trained parents.
School Calendar. While cultural/tribal idiosyncrasies are to be observed, the required calendar days of the school year should be adhered to as much as possible.
Datu Kaylo clarified that Salugpongan has been recognized by the NCIP Region XI as Tribal Council of elders in 2003, and it is entitled to all rights, benefits, and privileges granted under Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’Rights Act (IPRA).
He added long before the creation of IPRA law the Salugpongan Tribal Council existed and has above power than the Indigenous people mandatory representative.
“Before the IPRA Law created, we existed. As Manobo tribal council recognized by the NCIP, they gave us power and it is on documentation” said Datu Kaylo.
Taking cue from NCIP recognition, Datu Kaylo said the tribal council of Salugpongan has “a right to install schools which since then needed to educate the tribe.”
“The Salugpongan Council was recognized by no less than the NCIP and giving us the authority to decide we wanted to put up schools, so we worked hard for it” said Datu Kaylo.
Datu Kaylo also added the Salugpongan Council and the Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Learning Center Inc. followed all necessary process and protocols to establish the legality of the alternative schools as per required by the Department
“We have papers to prove our legality. That’s why we wonder why the military and the NCIPare so noisy when they are not even the main agency for education concerns” said Datu Kaylo.
During the press conference, Cacal also questioned the issue of “militarization in the communities of Talaingod” saying they did not receive any complaints from the Manobo tribe.
“Our staffs are going there from time to time, talked to leaders and community members but we have no complaints received of this so-called Militarization” said Cacal.
Cacal said the agency has been monitoring the area for the longest time yet they did not receive any reports from the local leaders of Talaingod that their rights have been violated by the military or the paramilitary in the area.
But Datu Kaylo belied the statement saying the NCIP did not specifically address their concern on the militarization of their lumad communities.
“Datu Guibang is just one of the members of the council. Though he is the chairman of the Salugpongan, this does mean he represents and carries the voice of the entire Salugpongan” said another Datu, Benito Bay-ao.
The Salugpongan Datu’s clarified that Datu Guibang’s surrender to the military is one manifestation that”he no longer represents the Manobo tribe and their concerns.
Datu Guibang Apoga gained prominence in Mindanao as an indigenous leader of the Manobo of Talaingod when he united the tribe and led a fierce resistance against one of the largest commercial logging companies in the country, Alcantara & Sons (Alsons). He is one of many Manobo’s who decisively put an end to logging operations that threatened their ancestral land and the environment.
“Yes, we know he fiercely led us in our struggle but the situation now is different. He is being controlled by the military, all his decisions, actions and statement is being orchestrated by the military” said Datu Benito Bay-ao.
Last December 3, 2018 in Kapehan sa SM Davao media forum Datu Guibang and other lumad leaders told media that Salugpongan ‘Ta Igkangun was affiliated with the New People’s Army presence in the area.
But the Salugpongan Datu’s denied all allegations and called Bai Pilar Libayao, and Datu Lumansad Sibogan as “Tribal dealers” who opened the ancestral lands of Talaingod to various business companies for mining and logging operations.
“These tribal dealers want to close the schools of Salugpongan because they want us to remain illiterate and easily facilitate the entry of big companies in our land. This is what happened to us when Alsons company entered our land” said Datu Kaylo Bontolan.
One big fight
Despite the recent attack in their tribes, the Salugpongan leaders vowed to continue to fight back and lead its people in their struggle.
The Datus, said Datu Kaylo is fully aware of the military’s tactic in dividing the Manobo and force them to arm against the tribe as part of their counter-insurgency campaign in the hinterlands. He pointed out the massive recruitment of Alamara, a paramilitary group known to be under the command of the 56th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army. This group “accompanied by the military, forced to close Salugpongan schools “ since October this year.
“The history taught us to fight and how to fight. In this point in time, our struggle is everyone’s struggle. We cannot afford to see our children and our soon to be tribal leaders to remain illiterate at cowards. The Salugpongan is the people, ready to stand, united to fight” said Datu Kaylo. (davaotoday.com)