• Children from indigenous groups in Mindanao demand to save their schools and stop Martial Law at a nationwide protest near the Batasang Pambansa where President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 24. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/davaotoday.com)

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Hours before President Duterte arrived at the House of the Representatives on a white helicopter on Monday to deliver his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), children from the hinterlands in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, dressed in their tribal clothes, ​called on government ​to stop Martial Law at a nationwide protest.

“Martial Law is hindering our education, our future,” said Beverly Gofredo, chairperson of Liga ng mga iskolar ng bayan (League of state scholars), who is currently in Grade 12 at one of the Lumad schools in Mindanao.

In front of thousands of participants in the protest pegged as the People’s SONA, the children did a heartfelt performance through an a cappella of “Igpaw (Cebuano term for overcome) Mindanao” by Musikang Bayan. They have condemned the military presence nearby their schools have disrupted their classes.

Since the declaration of Martial Law on May 23, a school of MISFI has been closed down, Gofredo said. “The children are the real creators of history,” she said, adding that they simply want to finish their studies.

​More than 300 children from different p​l​a​ces ​in Mindanao, along with Lumad leaders, have ​arrived at the government center ​on ​July 20 when they filed complaints for human rights violations against several officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The non-profit Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, ​has been ​providing basic education to 2,000 learners with 42 community centers in Mindanao. The center ​has accused the ​armed forces of violating “Constitutional rights for education, right of the child to protection from abuse and redress

The indigenous people have camped at the University of the Philippines Diliman in this city, while knocking at the government to hear their calls.

The progressive groups, led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, ​said they would work

to end the extension and prevent the threat for a nationwide expansion of Martial Law in Mindanao. ​”​Gone is the leftist and socialist character of the President,​”​ said Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, adding that Duterte is now supporting the imperialist.

Reyes quoted an EraserHead song that goes, “Iba na ang yung tingin, iba na ang yung ngiti, nagbago nang lahat sayo Your appearance and smile have changed. Everything about you changed).”

After the SONA, Duterte went to the protesters’ camp, a few meters away from the HOR gate.

Booed in his entrance, the President said he may end the Martial Law after the extension until Dec. 31, citing that there are still hostages in Marawi City.

“Never again! Never again to the Martial Law,” people replied in chorus.(davaotoday.com)

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