DAVAO CITY, Philippines – “Baseless, partial, and reeks with ill-motive.”
This was how Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save our Schools (SOS) Network, described the closure order of the Department of Education (DepEd) against the 55 lumad schools run by the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. in Davao region.
“It is a clear betrayal of Lumad’s hope for education,” Valle said in a statement.
The closure of Salugpongan schools stemmed from the recommendation of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. because of their alleged links to the communist movement.
Esperon vice chairs the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, a task force created by President Rodrigo Duterte through EO No. 70 on December last year.
On Tuesday (Oct. 8), DepEd-XI announced the results of its five-man fact-finding committee, nearly three months after it issued a suspension order to the Salugpongan schools.
The agency said its findings showed Salugpongan schools committed violations including the non-compliance with the curriculum standards set by DepEd-Davao, some students do not have Learners Reference Number, and teachers are not licensed, among others.
However, Valle said the “fact-finding team” created by DepEd to supposedly look into the allegations against Salugpongan had really no intention to look at the merits of the arguments of the school. The team, he added, failed to visit even one of the schools to verify the accusations.
“(DepEd) only lent their ears to the false narratives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary troops about the Lumad community schools,” Valle said, thus, SOS cannot consider the validity of DepEd’s investigation and resolution.
Valle added DepEd “showed its lack of due process when it refused to grant Salugpongan a permit to operate and subsequently suspended the schools last July in response to a complaint filed by Esperon.”
“While refusing to give due process for Salugpongan, the DepEd has further gave the military a platform to continue its dirty tactic of weaving fabricated stories and to legitimize its attacks against these schools,” he said.
He also criticized Education Secretary Leonor Briones for justifying the suspension of the schools on several occasions, by “parroting the vilification and recycled accusation that the Salugpongan schools are teaching communist ideology among its students.”
Lumad women group Sabokahan also assailed the DepEd resolution.
“As mothers of countless students and graduates of Salugpongan, we are outraged by this cruel injustice to close the schools! The DepEd is robbing poor Lumad children of their basic right to education,” the group said in a statement.
Sabokahan belied the allegation that Salugpongan schools are training ground for the New People’s Army. Lumad mothers said the schools is not teaching their children how to dismantle rifles.
“The DepEd touts the same baseless arguments that state security forces use to justify our assassination. But any of the thousands of visitors of our schools, nationally and internationally, can attest to the justness of our curriculum based on sustainable agriculture, holistic health, and the same core subjects under the DepEd,” the group said.
“Does free, quality, and culturally-relevant education to Indigenous Peoples conflict with the ideology that the government upholds?” the group asked.
Kabataan Party-list, meanwhile, said the schools continue to be subjected to red-tagging and harassment under the Duterte government when all Lumads did is take the initiative to build their community schools as an answer to the problems in rural areas like the lack of access to primary schools.
“Under the continuing martial law in Mindanao, it is the military that continues to trample down the Lumad’s right to self-determination and launch attacks against their basic rights such as the right to education,” Kabataan Party-list said in a statement.
On her part, Bayan Muna Party-list representative Eufemia Cullamat, who’s also a Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, believed that the DepEd colluded with the AFP with the closure of Salugpongan schools.
“They treat us badly as they want to let projects like mines, dams, logging, plantations, and several other profit-oriented projects into our communities which are destroying our ancestral domains,” she said. (davaotoday.com)