DAVAO CITY , Philippines — An advocacy group claimed that the Army continued to harass the operation of the Lumad schools across Mindanao and criticized on Tuesday the alleged inaction of the Department of Education on these harassments.
“[Education] Secretary [Leonor] Briones is only proving its collusion with the AFP in violating Lumad children’s right to education and self-determination,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network Mindanao.
This is not the first time the SOS urged the DepEd to address the issue of alleged military’s persistent attacks on Lumad schools. To recall, in 2017, the group, along with the Lumad students, led a campaign to urge Briones to rescind DepEd Memorandum Order No. 221, and grant the Lumad schools a permit to operate.
SOS, in particular, had assailed the DepEd Memo 221, or the “Guidelines on the protection of children during armed conflict,” which they claimed has allowed the entry of military in schools. The assailed memo was issued in December 2013.
To date, DepEd has yet to issue a permit to Lumad schools in both Northern and Southern Mindanao as well in Socksargen regions. Even Lumad schools in Davao region,Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation (Misfi) were subjected to the same attacks— threats of closure, harassments of volunteer teachers and Lumad students.
While DepEd regional offices have yet to issue the permits, more than 100 Lumad schools have been shut down since last year after a well-coordinated attacks perpetrated by the military, the SOS said.
SOS viewed DepEd’s apparent inaction “to have the country’s national minority groups of Mindanao remain uneducated for economic plunder to continue and serve the interest of foreign mining companies and other businesses who want to exploit resources in Mindanao.”
On Tuesday, SOS led another protest action in front of the House of Representatives to register their sentiments as lawmakers are deliberating the budget of the education department.
Manilyn Gantangan, a Lumad student from Mindanao who joined the SOS-led protest, has asked DepEd as to what concrete steps the agency has done to address their problem.
“What have you done to address militarization of Lumad schools in Mindanao?,” Gantangan asked. “Education is one of the highest forms of Lumad resistance against plunder of their ancestral land and other resources, hence state forces are forcibly closing down lumad schools.”
For 2018, SOS said it documented 18 incidents that affected 4,068 individuals, 1,338 students, and 76 teachers. These harassments happened while DepEd regional offices in Mindanao refused to issue the permit to operate and certificate of recognition of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) and Center for Lumad Advocacy Networking and Services (CLANS) despite their compliance and timely submission of requirements.
Meanwhile, Salinlahi Deputy Secretary General and SOS Network Lead Convener Relita Malundras said that apart from schools, the attacks were extended to the parents of students and community members who initiated the establishment of Lumad schools in Mindanao.
Malundras cited the case of Beverly Geronimo, a PTCA member of MISFI was killed last May after she bought schools supplies for her child.
Beverly Geronimo was also among the 80 community members forced by the military to admit false accusations as a rebel returnee, she said.
She added that in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, around 1,607 individuals including students and teachers of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) and Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao Sur (TRIFPSS) were forced to evacuate homes because of the persistent military presence in their community.(davaotoday.com)