By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – A branch of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) was attacked, this time in Padiay village, Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur, where the school teachers’ cottage was razed to the ground.
Dr. Naty Castro of the Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights (Karapatan Caraga) said community residents were roused early this morning at 2 a.m., Nov. 12, and saw the cottage ablaze. The residents tried to put out the fire but it was too late. Nobody was inside the cottage.
Castro said the suspected perpetrators are soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Battalion who have been conducting operations in the area since October up to the first week of November.
“They ordered the people to burn down the school, but the people rejected the notion,” Castro said. Because of the soldiers’ threats, the Alcadev staff have evacuated from the community last week.
Burned down with the cottage were: school books and supplies, kitchen utensils, rice stock, a sewing machine, a generator, and audio-visual equipment.
The burning of the Alcadev cottage in Agusan del Sur branch is the latest attack on the beleaguered school, branded by the military as “a New People’s Army training ground.”
But the worst it has suffered was on September 1, in Lianga, Surigao de Sur, when paramilitary men of the Magahat-Bagani group killed Alcadev Executive Director Emerito Samarca, and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo, and burned down the community cooperative. The attack by the Lumád paramilitary was preceded by the entry of soldiers of the 36th and 75th infantry battalions and Special Forces.
In October, another tribal school, the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School in White Culaman village, Kitaotao, Bukidnon was shut down by the village chairman Felipe Cabugnason, on suspected instigation by soldiers also of the 23rd IB, and the 8th IB.
The Save our Schools Network, whose members are part of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, condemned the torching of the school. The group had lamented the inaction of the Department of Education (DepEd) on their demand to scrap the DepEd Memo 21 which allows soldiers inside schools.
SOS Network had documented 95 attacks against tribal alternative schools by soldiers and paramilitary men in the past year.
The Mindanao-wide Lumád group, Kalumaran, had condemned the killings and attacks as part of government’s counterinsurgency Oplan Bayanihan, which has targeted Lumád communities strongly resisting encroachment of extractive and agribusiness companies into their ancestral lands.