DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A Lumad organization slammed the recent ‘Congressional inquiry’ being done against Salugpongan schools for its ‘malicious intention’ to link the school to the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Lumad group Pasaka Lumad Confederation of Southern Mindanao (Pasaka) expressed doubt of the true intention behind the conduct of inquiry against Salugpongan schools and considered the same as attacks to alternative schools in Mindanao and part of the continuing effort to discredit the school under the imposition of martial law.
Jong Monzon, secretary-general of Pasaka said in a phone interview that they were not shocked to learn that the AFP and other agencies of the government have conducted a “bogus investigation” against Salugpongan School.
Monzon told Davao Today that the effort is “to further ensure to silence the Manobo people” as massive evacuations and surrenders happen in the hinterlands of Talaingod and other Lumad communities.
“For the longest time, the military is persistent to link our alternative schools to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) despite its legitimacy and legality. We have already shown proof of our legality but instead of giving these Manobo children the right to learn, they keep on attacking our schools and our volunteer teachers,” Monzon said.
Monzon also questioned the process of the inquiry, as they do not have knowledge that it took place in the region before the Lenten season.
“If this congressional inquiry truly aims to know the truth about our alternative schools and its operation then they should have invited us and question us. But instead, they went on the process without us. Clearly, it is only a military effort to cover up the true situation of the indigenous people” Monzon added.
On Wednesday’s press conference, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade Jr. announced to the media that a 2-day Congressional Inquiry and an ocular visit is happening to validate the red-tagging accusations against the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center.
The Congressional Inquiry was composed of the Committee of the Indigenous People joined by various agencies like the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Indigenous People’s Concern, Department of Education, Department of Interior and Local Government, the National Commission of Indigenous People, Local Government, police and the military.
Parlade said inquiry aims to finally thresh out about the truth over Salugpongan Schools, saying, “that in fact, they are teaching nothing good about the government through the radicalization of students and eventually, recruit them to become an NPA”.
However, Monzon slammed Parlade’s claim that Salugpongan is a breeding ground of NPA fighters in Talaingod, saying that the school is the only means of learning by the Manobo tribe for the longest time as government services are elusive in the area.
Most of these schools are in the hinterlands of Talaingod that accessible only by foot.
The government have not reached most of these communities and not provided with basic services such as education, Monzon said.
The Salugpongan Council initiated in the building of alternative schools with the help of non-government organizations (NGOs) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) to answer the need of education of the young Manobos who cannot trek down and study in the nearest DepEd School.
“The school taught everyone how to read, write and most of all defend our ancestral land. The school helped not just in our academic learning but also in the development of the community anchored in the Manobo’s culture and practices,” Monzon said.
He also clarified that “the defense for the ancestral domain is a tribal practice” yet the military considered it as an act of terrorism.
During the press conference, Parlade claimed that the inquiry was scheduled a long time ago, postponed twice. He also added that the Makabayan Bloc made efforts to delay the inquiry.
However, both Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Bayan Muna Representative Karlos Zarate denied the allegations, calling Parlade a liar.
The two representatives who compose of the Makabayan Bloc in Congress along with Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Act Teachers Partylist and Kabataan Partylist are also not shocked upon hearing Parlade’s statement.
In a phone interview with Rep. Zarate, he told Davao Today that his office did not receive an invitation to a scheduled ocular visit in Talaingod on April 16, 2019.
He then provided a copy of an invitation sent by the House Committee on Indigenous People dated March 25, 2019, for an ocular inspection in Lianga, Surigao del Sur to be held on April 25, 2019, in view with his House Resolution No. 1656 calling for an investigation in aid of legislation on the human rights abuses committed against the indigenous people in the area.
In his letter to Rep. Allen Jesse C. Mangaong, chair of the Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities dated April 10, 2019, Zarate asked to move the schedule after 2019 mid-term election.
Zarate stressed out that Parlade is “all talk and allegations” without clear basis and proof.
“From the statements and lies now being peddled by Parlade, it is now becoming apparent that the purpose of this so-called investigation is nothing but a McCarthyist witch hunt to further vilify and slander the Makabyan bloc and other progressive groups. This is part of the vicious partisan campaign directed against us by anti-democratic forces, like the discredited putschist Parlade,” Zarate said.
Parlade on the other hand also accuses the Makabayan Bloc as part of the ‘legal fronts of the NPA’, calling them as “Alipures” of the Communist Party founding chair Jose Maria Sison.
Rep. Casilao also belied the statement and called Parlade “nothing but a liar.”
Casilao said he did not receive an invitation from the House Committee on Indigenous People as Parlade stated and challenged him to provide proof of his allegations.
Casilao also signifies his willingness to join the inquiry yet he and other progressive representatives do not have any knowledge about the schedule.
“He just put his name to shame for lying several times already and we cannot let this pass. First of all, Salugpongan has long been presenting its legality to the public and if fact it was confirmed by no less than the DepEd National Office. Second, he is messing with us without any evidence to prove his claim,” said Casilao in a phone interview.
Both Makabayan congressmen believe that the inquiry was done with malicious intent to attack organizations that are critical to the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. (davaotoday.com)