One of the multi-awarded reporters of a major media conglomerate interviewed on national television the head of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo regarding the spate of killings of Lumads in Mindanao. But she began the segment by saying, “groups with conflicting ideologies” have been recruiting Lumads and this has been causing conflict among them. That was no ordinary lead or introductory sentence; it was already a judgment on this woman reporter’s part that the killings were understandable because the Lumads have been taking sides or were duped into taking sides in the conflict. The so-called balanced reporting and objectivity flew out the window. And to think that this woman reporter is part of a media conglomerate claiming to have empathy, of being “one at heart” with the public.
What she failed to mention was that among those killed last September 1 were Emerito Samarca, the director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), a school for Lumads established by an NGO, a people’s organization and religious groups, Dionel Campos, the chairperson of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), the people’s organization that has been managing the school with religious sisters, and Datu Juvello Sinzo, a tribal chieftain; and that among the five killed during a military operation in Mendis village Pangantucan, Bukidnon by the 1st Special Forces Battalion last August were minors Emer Somina, 17 and Norman Samia, 13. While Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo were killed by members of a paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani, the said group is being armed, funded, and commanded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The school has been abandoned by the teachers and students because soldiers and paramilitary men have encamped in it and have warned the community that they would all be killed if they did not leave.
Why attack the schools, its director and teachers? Aren’t they providing a service that the government should be providing?
The AFP claims that it is a NPA school. Surely, the teachers and students are not making bombs and firearms as part of their science and work education projects. Nor are they teaching military tactics and discussing ideology and revolution in the schools. What then makes it a NPA school?
Because the school has been registered with the Department of Education as an alternative learning center, it should be following the department’s guidelines and standards. While providing lessons on the basic subjects required by the Education department, the school was has also been teaching students how to improve the agricultural production and livelihood of the community. It has been ensuring the food security of the communities while preparing the students for the future and responding to the present day development needs. What is wrong with that?
The paramilitary men said they would destroy the community and the school to weaken the support for the NPA. But by doing so, would it not achieve the opposite? When the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and violently suppressed all opposition to his rule, he was said to be the greatest recruiter of the NPA.
When Samarca, Campos and Mapasu, the Lumad communities and the religious groups set up the school they dreamed of a better life for the Lumads, who have long been abandoned by the government. Now the Aquino government and the AFP have been trying to kill that dream by attacking the school, teachers, students, and the communities and killing Samara, Campos, and Sinzo.