DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A teacher solon slammed the government’s anti-insurgency task force head who presented on Tuesday’s Senate hearing an “accomplishment” of closing down 75 Lumad schools.
France Castro, representative of ACT Teachers and House assistant minority leader, was reacting to statements made by National Security Adviser and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Vice Chair Hermogenes Esperon during the Senate hearing on the red-tagging campaign of the task force.
The government’s anti-insurgency task force presented in a Senate hearing their accomplishment of closing 75 Lumad schools they claimed are “recruitment schools” for the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
“Talagang nahuhuli ang isda sa sariling bibig. Sa bibig na mismo ng militar nanggaling na sila ang may pakana sa mga kabi-kabilang pagpapasara ng mga eskwelahang Lumad (You really catch a fish in its mouth. The military just admitted they are behind the closure of Lumad schools),” Castro said in a statement.
Esperon admitted in the hearing that the NTF-ELCAC was behind the closure order of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Talaingod, Davao del Norte province in 2018. Members of paramilitary group Alamara reportedly padlocked the Dulyan campus of the Salugpongan school.
The DepEd Davao Region previously denied the task force’s influence on their August 2019 decision to formally deny Salugpongan its permit to operate. Salugpongan school administrators slammed the decision saying there was no due process to call them to respond to the NTF allegations.
This year, the DepEd closed down the Community Technical College of Southern Mindanao based in Maco and some MISFI Academy campuses. Meanwhile, one of the MISFI schools in San Fernando, Bukidnon was destroyed by the paramilitary after hearing a report of its forced closure.
The Save Our Schools Network reported that the forced closures of these schools due to red-tagging and harassment has disenfranchised 5,500 Lumad students, as they call for the abolition of the task force that endangers the indigenous peoples.
Castro reminded Esperon that the purpose of the creation of Lumad schools was to address the education needs of indigenous children which DepEd had failed to provide for decades.
“They built the Lumad schools with blood, sweat and toil to give education for their children. Through the years the schools gave them hope. But what did the military do? Bullets, bombs, artillery forced them to leave their schools and community. Innocent children and lives of these Lumad have been wasted,” Castro said.
Castro said on behalf of the Makabayan bloc that they welcome the proposal of Senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros to realign the NTF-ELCAC budget next year of P19.1 billion into basic services.
“If we rechannel just half or one-third of the P19.1 billion for NTF-ELCAC, P6.3 billion to P9.5 billion will go a long way in the production of self-learning modules (SLMs). Instead of lies, fake news, and relentless red-tagging, and policies and activities that terrorize the people into silence, the people’s taxes will be spent for the dire needs of teachers and students in the blended mode of learning,” she said. (davaotoday.com)