BARANGAY GUPITAN, Kapalong, Davao del Norte – Indigenous people representatives, government officials, the military and militia leaders said in a dialogue facilitated by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday that they are allowing a private school to resume its classes for IP pupils until the school year ends.

“We have already agreed that the teachers should be allowed to go to their schools and complete their classes till this school year ends,” said Duterte.

But the teachers and administrators of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated (MISFI) Academy, would have to hold dialogue with the government again by March so that they can continue when classes start on June.

Misfi Academy teachers recounted their harrowing experience last week in a press conference after they were barred from entering Kapalong villages by a paramilitary group called Alamara. Classes have not resumed since Christmas break.

“They can now enter (the communities) to finish their classes until the school year ends but we have to talk again on what to do for the next (school) year,” said Art Davao, indigenous people mandatory representative in Kapalong town.

Alamara leader Laris Mansaloon said during the dialogue that they barred the teachers for failing to consult with them.

“They might get caught in the pangayaw (indigenous tribal warfare) where traditionally, no one is spared,” said Mansaloon, who appeared in a television interview last year together with other militiamen who wore red headbands and who brandished knives; the group declared war against the New People’s Army.

Misfi Academy coordinator Milagros Tan refuted Mansaloon’s claims saying they have been serving Kapalong villages since 2007 and “have paid courtesy visits to the mayor and renewed licenses and permits yearly.”

“It was the Mayor himself who helped us transport school children for an activity and we even parked our vehicles in Larris’ residence every time we go to the school,” said Tan.

Tan also said they also secured a free prior and informed consent (FPIC) back in 2011.

Kapalong Vice-Mayor Maria Theresa Timbol acknowledged MISFI saying that the institution “is, indeed, our partner for the last seven years and have contributed to education.”

“What we want is for classes to resume so the school calendar can still be followed,” said Ricky Balilid who teaches grades 4 and 5 pupils of the school.

Meanwhile, Tan said 49 of their pupils were barred by soldiers from joining the dialogue.

“We expect them to be here so that they can speak the truth about the situation of their communities,” said Tan.

But Timbol said “We rescued them as they were being used. They were made to walk for one and a half day without any knowledge.”

Meanwhile, Duterte told community residents who listened to the dialogue “Education is sacred and is the only thing that could elevate you from your current situation.”

He said he would talk with other members of the Regional Peace and Order Council which he serves as chairperson first.

“In March we will talk again to discuss what will happen for the next school year,” Duterte said. (

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