Mr. President lend us your ears – Lumad students

Jul. 25, 2017

NO TO BOMBING. Lumad leaders, students, teachers and support group from Mindanao, in a press conference at the “Kampuhan” at Mendiola Bridge on Tuesday condemned the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to bomb lumad schools. (Alex D. Lope/

MANILA, Philippines – Instead of listening to military generals whom they perceived of having no idea ​of their real situation, Lumad leaders and students from Mindanao appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to come and listen to their stories and pleas.

Students expressed fear over the recent statement of the President threatening to bomb Lumad schools in Mindanao.

“It is painful to hear the President threatening to bomb our school,” said third year lumad student Gleezajoy Belandres in local dialect during a press conference inside the “Kampuhan” on Tuesday, July 25.

​They joined the workers in the “Kampuhan” or camp out at the historic Mendiola Bridge here on Tuesday, July 25.

The group also joined the People’s SONA outside of the House of Representatives on Monday in time
​for the second State of the Nation Address of Duterte.

Belandres denied Duterte’s claim that lumad schools are established and funded by the New People’s Army.

In a press briefing after the SONA, Duterte told the media he will order the bombing of structures of the NPAs including the lumad schools which he suspected of being utilized in teaching subversion and communism.

The President added the lumad schools have no permit from the Department of Education.

“Yung mga eskwelahan lang ng mga Lumad, ‘yung kanila, they are operating without the Department of Education’s permit. Kasi eskwelahan nila but they are teaching subversion, communism, lahat na. So umalis kayo diyan. Sabihin ko diyan sa mga Lumad ngayon, umalis kayo diyan. Bobombahan ko ‘yan. Isali ko ‘yang mga istruktura ninyo,” he said.

Duterte added he will use the Armed Forces and the Philippine Air Force to bomb said structures.

“I will use the Armed Forces, the Philippine Air Force. Talagang bobombahan ko ‘yung mga… lahat ng ano ninyo. Because you are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government. May kalokohan kayo eh di mas lalo na ako.”

Jessel Eugenio, 18, a lumad student from Compostela Valley was in fear when she heard of Duterte’s remarks on their school.

“I am afraid because the President now orders the military to bomb our school,” she said in a local dialect when interviewed by Davao Today here on Tuesday.

She ​was uncertain​ ​as to ​where ​she would go ​now ​and what to do if their school is destroyed, saying the lumad school is the only way she could get an education and ensure her future.

Instead of destroying, Jessel asked Duterte to strengthen the Lumad schools so that more children could get a better education.

“Listen to us, Mr. President. Do not pay attention to General (Eduardo) Año, General (Hermogenes) Esperon and (Defense Secretary Delfin) Lorenzana. They do not know our situation,” said Jong Monzon, secretary general of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao.

Monzon said the advice and recommendations of Año, Esperon and Lorenzana ​we​re ​inappropriate to the lives of the Lumad people in the country ​”​as they are completely out of touch with the real situation of Lumad communities​”​.

“We are here in Manila now Mr. President. We are willing to talk to you and present to you our situation,” Monzon added, as he also asked Duterte not to destroy the lumad schools.

LISTEN TO US. Jong Monzon (left), secretary general of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao appealed to President Duterte in a press conference at the “Kampuhan” in Mendiola Bridge on Tuesday to listen to the accounts of the real situation of the lumads in Mindanao. (Alex D. Lope/

The lumad leaders are also calling for the lifting of M​artial ​L​aw in Mindanao, saying that the measure will only intensify the attacks on lumad schools by the state forces and its paramilitary group, the Alamara.

They also asked the government to continue the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“The Lumad schools are established by our leaders and the parents of children. These are not NPA schools,” said Eufemia Cullamat, the spokesperson of Lumad group KASALO CARAGA.

Cullamat said the President is being fed with wrong information as to the nature and purpose of the lumad schools in Mindanao.

“We are so worried about his (President) statement. His advisers are wrong in their conclusions about the lumad schools,” she added.

Cullamat also expressed fear the expansion of martial law in Mindanao will be utilized by big capitalists and foreign businesses to seize big portions of their ancestral lands for mining, plantations, and other businesses.

She said intensified military activities in the countryside are designed to force the lumads abandon their abodes and communities to pave the way for the entry of big businesses in their areas.

Lumad schools are legal

“Contrary to what the President perceived, the lumad schools in Mindanao are legal and are equipped with pertinent papers.”

This was the assertion made by Arjay Perez, a teacher and the secretary general of the Association of Community Educators in Mindanao.

Perez also showed to the media the papers of a number of lumad schools operating in Southern Mindanao, CARAGA and SOCCSKSARGEN.

The papers include those coming from the Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems of the DepED, business permits and other pertinent documents.

“We are all licensed teachers,” he added, as he condemned the threat of Duterte to lumad schools.

“We spent time walking to reach more lumad communities to teach their children to read and write. I cannot imagine why these schools should be bombed and destroyed,” he pointed out.

Perez said the presence of soldiers in their schools inflict fear among the students and teachers, such cases frequently happen, including the staying of soldiers of their schools.

“We will continue to serve the lumad schools and the children despite these threats,” said Michael Fay, another lumad teacher and a member of the Center for Lumad Advocacy in SOCCSKSARGEN.

LEGAL PAPERS. Lumad school teachers Arjay Perez (left) and Michael Fay (right) present to the media the papers and documents that lumad schools in Mindanao possess to counter the claim of President Duterte that lumad schools are illegal. (Alex D. Lopez/

Fay also told of his personal experience when harassed by the military in their school.

Teary-eyed, Fay narrated the fear and hardships he felt in the midst of harassment: “It was hard. When the military is there the children would come to me, cry and embrace me because they are afraid of their presence. I feel afraid too.”

Fay said children, while crying of fear would utter questions that, if comprehended deeply would suggest of confusion as their young minds could not comprehend a situation under duress.

HR violations continue

Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save Our School Network told reporters that human rights violations in the form of harassments of teachers, students, and arrests of community leaders continue under the administration of Duterte.

As of July 18 this year, a total of 89 lumad schools and 229 Parents Teachers Community Associations of said schools in Mindanao are already affected by the intensified all-out war.

The situation also affected 2,624 lumad students while 27 lumad schools were already forcibly closed, the data from SOS Network stated.

The forcible closure of the 27 lumad schools affected 924 lumad students, the data added.

With the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, SOS Network fear of more attacks to lumad schools and the harassment and arrest of teachers and school leaders.

Seven cases of school-related killings, as the victims are members of PTCA, were already recorded in the same period; one disappearance of lumad student was also recorded; seven teachers are now facing trumped-up cases, and 864 lumad students are affected by evacuation due to intensified military operations. (

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