She now wonders what would become of their high school.
“The military should be held accountable for violating the sanctity of schools,” said Pia Perez-Garduce of Salinlahi, a children’s rights advocacy center. Not only that, Perez-Garduce said it is doubly tragic that first, the government has had no hand in the education of thousands of Lumads in Surigao; second, when other well-meaning groups established Alcadev, for secondary education, and the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) for basic education, to fill the gap, the military destroyed its materials and infrastructure and stalled the education programs.
Jinky Bautista (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
On August 25, Perez-Garduce said Salinlahi and some Lumads such as Jinky would picket the office of the Department of Education. “We hope education officials would talk with us and help resolve the problem of the hundreds of students in Surigao del Sur whose education was stopped by the military,” she said. She also asked the public to support the Lumad’s calls for the military to pull out of their communities, and to help them rebuild their schools.
So far, the Department of Education has not yet issued a statement regarding the military raid of the alternative learning schools for indigenous peoples in Surigao del Sur. “We’ve had regular dialogues with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Surigao but the Lumad’s pleas for the military to pull out of the area so they could get on with their lives remain unheeded,” said Perez-Garduce.
“Just what kind of programs are the soldiers protecting that hundreds of them have to stay and harass the Lumad communities?” asked Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan.
Kalumaran, an alliance of indigenous peoples in Mindanao, said the Department of Defense has dubbed whatever it s the military is supposed to be doing in the area as “Kalayaan” (Freedom) project. After holding lengthy dialogues (one lasted for five hours, another lasted for11 hours) with officers of the 58th IB, Rep. Luz Ilagan concluded that the so-called project stems from the 2010 insurgency campaign deadline ordered by the Arroyo government.
Rep. Ilagan said the soldiers told her they were willing to vacate the Lumad communities if an order from their commander-in-chief or chief of staff tells them to do so. The military revealed they got P5million for the project. They said they would “be court-marshalled” if they left the Lumad community before 2010 and “failed to fulfill their duty.”
“A mining project will also be opened at a Lumad area soon,” said Rep. Ilagan. She concluded that it seems the mining operations also go hand-in-hand with militarization.
Everything they are doing in the Lumad community is related to combat operations, at the expense of the day-to-day lives of the Lumad. Their daily lives, work and schools have sadly become “collateral damage to the Arroyo’s counterinsurgency campaign,” said Rep. Ilagan.
“This has to end,” Rep. Ilagan said. Along with Salinlahi, an alliance of organizations involved in children’s programs, she appealed for public support. Rep. Ilagan said a humanitarian solidarity mission would be conducted from August 28 to 30 to lend support to the Lumads, provide relief and medical services, and to document the plight of the Lumads. Rep. Ilagan appealed to the public to contribute to the mission. Rep. Ilagan also reiterated the Lumad’s calls for the military to pullout of their communities.
“Go after the NPAs, if they are who the military said they are looking for,” said Jinky. “I just want to finish high school.”
She dreams of becoming a health provider someday, because there is not one nurse or doctor based in the Lumad community.
Enriquez and his fellow evacuees who are mostly farmers are longing to go back to their farm. “A month ago, before we had to leave, most of our corn, sweet potatoes and vegetables are already ripe for harvesting. We wish to be able to go back for them now.” Bulatlat