Some Lumad schools may not be able to start classes on June 1, with soldiers encamped in the area.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – All schools in Lumad communities must open on June 1. This was the call of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) as Lumad schools in the hinterlands of Mindanao continue to be attacked by soldiers and paramilitary groups.
The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network reported 13 incidents of military encampment, threats, and harassment affecting 1,686 students and 42 teachers in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.
here were also reports of soldiers bribing paramilitary men and even Lumad leaders to destroy indigenous peoples schools, especially in Talaingod, according to ACT.
Rius Valle of SOS Network said that with the continuous threat by soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion and the paramilitary group Alamara to the staff of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) at sitio Tibukag in Talaingod, there is a bleak chance for the school to open on June 1.
Soldiers’ orders: kill and burn
Valle said that since January up to this month, soldiers have been telling residents of Palma Gil village to burn the STTICLC.
Datu Ginom Andel of the Blaan group Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon said in sitio Tibukag, the soldiers encamped in between the STTICLC and the Department of Education (Deped) school, where they dug foxholes and hang tarpaulins for their roof.
“They summoned the people into the DepEd (school). There they would speak to them, asking where the NPAs are,” Andel added.
In May, Andel said the soldiers again ordered them to burn the school down. “The soldier told us ‘You should burn that school down, because it is run by communists.’ “We replied that we won’t do that, because this school gave us education that is for free, we don’t have to pay for anything.”
Andel said soldiers told them to kill the teachers of the STTICLC when they come to school for the upcoming classes. He said they were told that if a teacher from Salugpungan arrives, they would have to kill them, because the school is owned by the NPA, and the teachers themselves are NPAs.
In sitio Muling, Gupitan village, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, the moving up ceremony of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation (Misfi) Academy for preschool and Grade 6 students in March was delayed because of military encampment and harassment of the teachers whom soldiers tagged as NPAs. The ceremony finally pushed through on May 25, one week before the school opening, Davao Today reported.
Call on lawmakers
Meanwhile, child rights advocates picketed in front of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 26, as the Committee on Human Rights held an omnibus legislative inquiry regarding cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Cases of extrajudicial killings, abduction, harassment, military encampment in schools and false labels of child soldiers were discussed during the inquiry. The child rights advocates called on the lawmakers not to allocate funds to the AFP until they have accounted for the rights abuses.
Kharlo Manano, secretary general of the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, said their group has brought cases of child’s rights violations to different government agencies long before the inquiry.
“The lawmakers should exert all efforts and resolutely investigate these cases to make the perpetrators accountable,” said Manano. He attributed the violations to the Aquino administration’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan.
Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) executive director Jacquiline Ruiz said they have recorded 20 children killed during military operations, while 31 children were maliciously labelled as child soldiers.
The CRC expressed alarm over the increasing cases of human rights violations against children perpetrated by the state forces.
“Even schools are now not safe for children as they use these as barracks,” Manano said.
He lamented that no concrete action has been taken by the government in spite of a dialogue last year with Deped Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC on attacks on schools.