DAVAO CITY,Philippines — A volunteer teacher of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. in Trento,Agusan del Sur is now in fear of her life after being forced to surrender as a supporter of the underground New People’s Army.
Jocelyn Samora, a volunteer teacher for 11 years in her community in Cogonon, Trento said she was forced to surrender on March 4 this year, along with the members of the Parent Teachers Community Association (PTCA).
Beverly Geronimo, who was gunned down on May 26 by gunmen believed to be soldiers, was president of the PTCA. Samora said she and Geronimo both received death threats prior to the killing of Geronimo.
On March 4, Samora said they were interrogated by soldiers of 25th Infantry Battalion, which she said forced them to admit that they were supporters of NPA and that MISFI was a training ground for children to use arms against the government.She has belied the accusation, though.
Her name was said to have been included in the military’s list of NPA supporters.
On March 12, she said “I was forced to state my name and admit that I am a supporter to clear my name” when she went to the Municipal Hall of Trento, along with several other residents in the community.
Samora said she was being followed by unidentified men riding on a motorcycle and feared she might be gunned down like Geronimo.
The 25th IB has belied the allegation it was behind the killing of Geronimo saying it was ”just propaganda to discredit the gains of the military in their anti-insurgency campaigns in communities”.
Samora has since shivered at at the future of her family, saying her husband left home for fear of being killed while she was also adviced by the community not go home after receiving threats.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. My family is deeply affected by our situation. I am not an NPA. I am a teacher and I am in the community to teach.”
Trend of attack
Ricky Balilid of the Association of Community Educators said they have closely monitored the harassment and threat to community volunteer teachers under MISFI and other alternative schools in the region.
“We have received reports from our teachers that they are accused of being NPA supporters or accused of being NPAs This is an alarming case happening in indigenous peoples community,” said Balilid
The Save our Schools Network (SOS)-Southern Mindanao Region, said there were 2,379 students and teachers ”coerced and forced to become NPA surrenders” as of April this year.
From July 2016 to April 17, the group has documented a total of 534 cases of attacks on schools, nine of these were extrajudicial killings including the killing of a student named Obillo Bay-ao in Talaingod Davao del Norte.
Because of the anti-insurgency campaign in the countryside through “forced surrender”, Balilid said this resulted to the decline of student enrollees in respective MISFI and Salugpungan schools in the region. He said parents were scared to send their children to alternative schools because of military threats.
Balili also said that soldiers have encamped in communities resulting to suspension of opening of classes.
SOS said this happened on the first day of classes at the Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Sitio Laslasakan, Tibucag, Nasilaban, Km 30 and Km 17 in Talaingod Davao del Norte after school children were forced by members of the 68th Infantry Battalion ”to gather vegetables for preparation of the soldiers’ meals”.
It said the 68th IB has camped in the community and a drone was seen flying above the school.(davaotoday.com)