“It is clear that soldiers have been using DSWD’s 4Ps program to threaten parents and children not to enroll in Misfi and Salugpungan schools.”
By ANNE MARXE UMIL
MANILA – The Save Our Schools Network urged Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman to listen to the Lumad children’s demands to reopen their school, instead of making “ignorant” statements.
In a news report, Soliman criticized the Lumad children’s presence in the “kampuhan” (camp) outside the Department of Education office in Davao City.
The “kampuhan” was set up by Lumad communities, parents together with the SOS Network and other groups last week, to demand that permits be granted to their schools, Salugpungan Ta Ta’nu Igkanugon Learning Center Incorporated (STTILCI) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation (Misfi) Academy. The two institutions operate 25 community schools.
“Those children should be in school,” Soliman reportedly said. She criticized the groups for bringing the children, where they were getting wet in the rain and do not eat on time.
“Maybe Dinky should listen to children’s demands and send letters to the military to spare the school and indigenous people’s communities from military operations,” said Rius Valle, spokesman of the SOS Network.
He then challenged Soliman to issue a clarificatory statement on the soldiers’ use of the 4P’s cash assistance to intimidate the Lumad beneficiaries whose children are in the alternative schools. Valle said this was “a clear violation of children’s right to development.”
Kharlo Manano, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary-general, said Soliman seems “ignorant” of the situation of the Lumad children, which pushed them to resort to camping outside the DepEd office. “Education and participation are two basic rights of children,” Manano said.
Valle said DepEd Region 10 office declared that STTILCI and Misfi Academy may reopen after permits were issued by the DepEd-Indigenous People’s Education Office (IPEO) last week. However, SOS said DepEd Regional Director Alberto Escobarte refused to release the permits, saying that the schools should get it from the different divisions, based on the new procedures.
SOS Network also cited reports of continuing military threats against the school.On June 23, soldiers of the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion led by a certain Sgt. Acmad and Sgt. Itaw threatened parents and students at sitio (sub-village) Paglusngan, Taytayan village, Cateel, Davao Oriental.
The soldiers said that anyone who enrolls at Salugpungan school will cease to receive the Government’s 4Ps cash assistance from DSWD or will be delisted from the program” said Valle. The 4Ps is the government Conditional Cash Transfer dole-out program.
The soldiers told teachers not to teach their classes anymore since the Salugpungan schools do not have the permit to operate, quoting the DepEd memorandum, Anna Eza Cohitmingao, teacher-in-charge of the school, said in a report.
“The children’s calls are legitimate, and it is clear that the soldiers have been using DSWD’s 4Ps program to threaten parents and children not to enroll in Misfi and Salugpungan schools. I wonder who is using something for their malicious interest?” said Valle.
He added that children only want education, and they are entitled to be heard by the government who are being paid by the people’s taxes to serve and protect all Filipino people, especially the children.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, meanwhile, urged DepEd to compel the soldiers occupying schools and nearby facilities to leave.
“Since DepEd Memo 221 was enforced, there was a noted increase in the number of state-instigated attacks on schools. The memorandum practically allowed the military to use school facilities for encampment and institutionalized the violation of children’s right to education.”
“Schools are zones of peace,” Ilagan said.
She said the DepEd should also be held liable for looking the other way when schools were being desecrated and burned and when teachers were being threatened and harassed. “The DepEd should first and foremost uphold the children’s right to education and not allow itself to be used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its counterinsurgency campaign.”