Accredited under the country’s Alternative Learning System, Alcadev offers a secondary school curriculum. Since it started in 2004, Alcadev has twice received national awards.
Trifpss continue to offer elementary education in the 15 communities in Diatagon.
But both schools had to suspend classes for more than one month after the military came to the village on July 13.
But it is not just the fear of being tagged as rebels that forced people out of their villages. They also feared being forcibly drafted into the government’s war against the Communist guerillas.
Fleeing villagers said that in Barangay Diatagon, for instance, the military brought along with them a certain Marcos Bocales, a tribal leader reportedly “anointed” by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Enriquez said Bocales has been urging residents to join Task Force Gantangan, a paramilitary group tasked to fight the New Peoples Army guerillas. Enriquez also said Bocales has been claiming 10,000 hectares of ancestral land to his name.
“He goes to our place with fully armed military troops,” Enriquez said. “They slept in our houses or encamp near our place. If we disapproved, they’d suspect us as NPA sympathizers. We better leave our communities.”
In Talaingod, Davao del Norte, the Ata Manobos share an almost similar story. After a horrible experience in May when soldiers reportedly killed a son of a tribal leader right in front of the villagers , they are just terrified by the presence of soldiers.
Datu Duluman Dausay, an Ata-Manobo leader from Sitio Dulyan in Talaingod, said the soldiers stayed in houses, recruiting residents to the Barangay Defense System (BDS).
Dausay said the soldiers ordered villagers to kill every NPA they come across with, using their bolos.
He said that upon arriving in Sitio Dulyan on August 15, the soldiers went straight to the village school, terrifying the teachers and the students.
Soldiers have also occupied Sitio Nasilaban, Balite, Damuluan, Kamamuanan, Barobo, Nalubas, Bagang and Lasakan, all part of Palma Gil village of Talaingod, he said. He said the people wanted to leave their villages to avoid trouble but they are holding out because of the harvest season.
The military told residents they’re in the community as part of the government’s “peace and development” efforts.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez, the commander of the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Surigao del Sur insisted that the indigenous peoples should form Task Force Gantangan. He said the military is in the place for their literacy projects in the communities.
The Lumads from Diatagon said they do not need the literacy projects of the military because they already have schools in their communities.
They said they’ve been working hard to set up the schools which the military only came to destroy.
”If the military really intends to bring peace, they should stop recruiting people to the BDS or the Task Force Gantangan and leave the Lumads alone,” he said. “How can we have peace when we are forcibly drafted into their war?” he asked. “Our lives are endangered by the presence of armed troops in our communities.”
For the Lumads, the military came to Diatagon to build roads, bridges and water systems which will soon provide infrastructure support to incoming mining companies eyeing the rich coal deposits in the nearby Andap Valley, Enriquez said.
“Andap valley is a sacred ground for us, Lumads ,” he said. “We know that mining companies are already waiting to get hold of the resources in our place.” (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)