DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Salugpungan schools that provide education to different IP communities in Mindanao will appeal the recent Department of Education (DepEd) order suspending its permit to operate and its recognition based on accusations of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
DepEd’s Regional Office in Davao Region issued an order on July 10, signed by its officer-in-charge Evelyn Fetalvero, suspending the operations of 55 Salugpungan campuses. All pending applications for its renewal of permits are also held in abeyance.
The agency’s order was based on the report coming from Esperon, the Vice-Chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, claiming that Salugpungan schools “do not teach in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the DepEd.”
Esperon accused Salugpungan schools of “using” children in rallies, and teaching them “with ideologies that advocate against the government.”
Esperon’s report was also based on an affidavit executed on December 6, 2018, by one Melvin Mansaloan Loyod, who claimed to have volunteered as a Salugpungan teacher assigned in Sitio Pongpong, Brgy. Sto. Niño, Talaingod town, Davao del Norte.
He claimed that learning modules of the schools teach the students to conduct anti-government rallies, how to use firearms,ambush of military soldiers, among others.
DepEd’s Fetalvero said in her order, that those allegations are “serious enough” to warrant an immediate action from their agency. She added that it is the mandate of DepEd to ensure that the teachings in schools are consistent with its curriculum standards, and not contrary to the Philippine Constitution and other laws.
The order read: “After careful review and consideration of the report and pertinent documents to the effect that Salugpungan falls short of the requirements and conditions in operating a private school and that it violates the laws, orders, and rules and regulations of the duly constituted authorities of the Philippines, the Secretary of DepEd, in the exercise of the power of supervision and control over the DepEd under the Administrative Code of 1987, instructed the Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Regional Director to suspend the permit to operate and recognition of private schools owned and operated by Salugpungan.”
The DepEd gave the Salugpungan schools five days to appeal the suspension. It also ordered them to facilitate the enrollment of their pupils to nearby public schools.
Administrators of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. said in a statement on Saturday, July 13, that they were surprised to receive such an order coming from the DepEd, explaining that they were “persistent in complying with all the necessary requirements” stated in the agency’s guidelines for schools for indigenous people.
It added they have constant communication with DepEd Region 11 regarding the release of its permit to operate.
“We are saddened that the government’s mandate to recognize and uphold the right of the Lumad to education and self-determination is superseded by a militaristic approach that further marginalizes the Lumad,” administrators of Salugpungan said.
The Salugpungan schools will challenge the allegations made by Esperon, which they said are only “fabricated accusations and red-tagging to justify the closure of Lumad schools.”
In a separate statement, Save Our Schools (SOS) Network were appalled that DepEd “reduced itself as a stamp pad” for the military, which is said to have targeted the closure of Lumad schools, including Salugpungan.
“While they follow the military’s order of closure without basis, DepEd has failed to address the real concerns of the Salugpongan schools which we have lobbied for in the past years. In the recent months, we and the Salugpongan officers have raised concerns on how the military and paramilitary groups have forcibly closed the schools and even forced the community at gunpoint to destroy some of the school buildings in several villages in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley,” SOS Network said.
According to the group, only 11 of the 55 Salugpungan schools remained operational since most of the schools were shut down due to supposedly State-sponsored attacks.
The group questioned what actions the officials of DepEd had made regarding the reported attacks on the Lumad schools that were reported to the Department.
“Yet despite these clear attacks on Lumad schools, students and teachers, we have never heard a single word of protection or support from the DepEd. We have not seen DepEd officials set foot on these schools to see how vulnerable the teachers and students are from the threats, harassments, and attacks from the military and paramilitary.”
Last month, SOS Network reported that around 3,000 students were affected by the forcible closure of 89 Lumad schools in Mindanao since the start of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. (davaotoday.com)