Lumad chiefs say they will not leave until their children are back in school.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Lumad datus (tribal chiefs), parents and students, together with the Save our Schools Network, had camped out in front of the Department of Education (DepEd) Region 10 office in Davao City since June 16, Tuesday, demanding the reopening of the Salugpungan Ta Ta’nu Igkanugon Learning Center Incorporated (STTILCI) in Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte province.
Datu Doloman Dawsay, spokesperson of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon, the indigenous peoples’ group which initiated the establishment of the school, said they will stay outside the DepEd office until the STTILCI is granted permit, and the children are all back in school.
“Obviously, they are trying their best to close down the indigenous peoples’ schools, schools that were built mainly by the indigenous people themselves,” said Rius Valle, SOS Network spokesperson.
Valle said they demand due process in the closure of STTILCI schools which had also been targeted by militarization.
In a report, DepEd regional office 10 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said that on May 21, DepEd regional director Alberto Escobarte issued a Notice of Non-Renewal of Permit and not a closure order.
Responding to representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) who inquired about the closure, Atillo said the school failed to apply for permit renewal within Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, 2014, as required by DepEd Order 21.
In a report by Davao Today, STTILCI school administrator Lolit Casagda, said they have complied with all the requirements, and are in the process of renewing their permit.
“Let us not confuse the public on that kind of statement,” said Valle. “The bottom line is, that indigenous peoples students will still be deprived of their education,” he added.
Valle said not one official from the DepEd Region 10 office had faced them in a dialogue since they filed a complaint about military attacks and closure of schools on May 21.
The SOS Network said that in the villages of Malibago and Taytayan, in Cateel, Davao Oriental, a certain “PFC Dexter Salyan” and Civil-Military Relations officer, Lt. Marquez of the 67th IB ordered the purok leaders to list the names of the teachers and the students of STTILCLC.
The 67th IB soldiers claimed that they were ordered by the governor to close the schools and to stop the construction of schools.
Harassment on Misfi
Meanwhile, another school, the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (Misfi) Academy, was able to start classes on June 8, in spite of threats and harassment from soldiers and paramilitary groups.
The Misfi school in sitio (sub-village) Muling, Kapalong is the only one that remains closed because the school staff and teachers are being blocked entry by the paramilitary group Alamara.
As of June 9, SOS Network reported continued harassment on Misfi students and parents, by soldiers belonging to the 67th Infantry Battalion, which had tagged Misfi as “schools of the New People’s Army.”
In sitios Mantapay, Limot and Bagangan, Binondo village, Bagangga, Davao Oriental, soldiers had threatened parents that they cannot avail of the government subsidy under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P’s) if their children continue to study at Misfi Academy.
SOS Network also said soldiers threatened parents their children would have a hard time entering other schools if they come from Misfi. Soldiers also reportedly forced DepEd teachers not to give school documents to parents whose children were transferring to Misfi.
In sitio Kaputian and sitio Kasunugan, Mahan-ub village, Bagangga town, Davao Oriental, soldiers reportedly threatened parents not to enroll their children in the Misfi schools. The soldiers also allegedly coerced tribal leaders and village officials to stop the construction of the schools. Two teachers were also tailed by 67th IB intelligence operatives.
The military reportedly carried out similar branding and harassment against Misfi schools in sitio Cogonon, Salvacion village, Trento, Agusan del Sur, resulting to village officials calling for the school’s closure.