DAVAO CITY – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the closure of the indigenous peoples schools in Davao del Norte province is a “stupid idea”.

Duterte made the statement on Saturday during the release of New People’s Army prisoner-of-war, Private First Class Khen Subere in Sarangani Province.

“Mito-o sila sa military (They believed the military),” Duterte said referring to the Department of Education in Region 11 order not to renew the permit of the community schools of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center Inc. (STTILCI) and the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (Misfi) Academy.

In a Philippine Information Agency dispatch on Thursday, DepEd XI Spokesperson Jenielito Atillo  said the DepEd “only issued a Notice of Non-Renewal of Permit” to Salugpungan schools for failing to renew their permits and did not order their closure.”

Issued on May 21, 2015, the Notice of Non-Renewal of Permit signed by  DepEd regional director Atty. Alberto T. Escobarte cited DepEd Order No. 21, Series of 2014 which sets the “Guidelines on the Recognition of Private Learning Institutions Serving Indigenous Peoples Learners”.

Chapter VI.19 of the guidelines states that “The permit to operate shall be effective for a period of one year from the date of its issuance and may be renewed yearly until the institution obtains full-fledged recognition.”

“Thus, your government permit to operate issued by this office is valid only for School Year 2014-2015. Therefore submission of documents requesting for the renewal of Permit to operate is deemed necessary,” Escobarte said as quoted in the Notice.

However, Ronnie Garcia, basic education head of the STTILCI, said their schools closure serves the anti-insurgency campaign of the Army.

School administrators said the Army accuses their schools as structures built by the NPAs.

“It is clear to the community that the Army is working hard for the closure of the schools as part of the so-called Peace and Development Outreach Program under Oplan (operation plan) Bayanihan,” he said.

“So what if they are children of Communists? The more you have to give them education,” Duterte said.

Teachers held by soldiers

On Wednesday morning, parents and students of Misfi Academy schools in two villages in Davao Oriental province also waited for their teachers, but the Army prevented the  teachers who were about to go to the community schools in Barangay Mahan-ub for a “consultation with the local government unit”.

In a radio interview, teacher-in-charge Roger Aumada said four of their teachers in preschool, Grade 1 and Grade 2 in Sitio Kasunugan and Sitio Kaputian were held by the military at the barangay hall at 9:00 in the morning. In a separate text message sent to media, Aumada said the teachers were still not permitted to go to their schools until the evening.

The teachers were identified as Alfata Basil of Grade 1 and Grade 2 in Sitio Kaputian; Jennylane Siwagan of preschool in Kaputian; Jonifer Laguisan of Grade 1 and Grade 2 in Sitio Kasunugan; and Dante Biktao of preschool in Kasunugan.

“Hindi naman sila pinipigilan or hina-harass. Ang sabi ng mga sundalo ini-invite nilang makipag-consultation sa local government, municipal ug provincial (They were not stopped or harassed. The soldiers said they invited the teachers to have a consultation with the local government units),” said 10th Infantry Division Commander Eduardo Año during a radio interview.

During an interview with Radyo ni Juan, Aumada said the soldiers were saying that they could not go inside because of an order from the Department of Education Region 11.

In a text message Wednesday, the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion Commander Michael Banua said there was no harassment in the said sitios.

Banua said they would like to verify if the four were indeed teachers.

“Let us verify kung teachers nga ba or what. We are helping communities to keep the peace,” Banua said.

Misfi said in a statement that they are planning to file legal actions against the Army officials “who are responsible in commanding their subordinates.”

“What have been transpiring now in our schools are attacks vividly instigated by the [Army]. These abusive military personnel never even bother to think of civilian supremacy neither of humanitarian laws nor of rules of engagements when they attacked our schools and our communities,” Misfi said. (With reports from John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

  • Edwin Subijano

    This is the kind of thing that happens when you have an army that was brutalized during training.
    The Philippine Army propaganda that they are the defender of the Filipino people is proved to be
    hollow and empty when you see them closing schools because they don’t want Filipino children to
    know their rights under the constitution. Filipino soldiers are like robots and machines that brutalizes
    anyone who protest against foreign mining and other imperialist interests. The Philippine Army is a
    very expensive security guard for foreign interests.

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