‘DepEd, Aquino accountable for Surigao Sur killings’ – teachers group

“President Aquino’s inaction on EO 546 is tantamount to a presidential imprimatur on these killings and violations.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Educators expressed rage and condemnation on the Sept. 1 killing of school administrator and leaders of the indigenous people’s organization in Surigao del Sur.

In a statement sent to Bulatlat.com, Alliance of Concerned Teachers’ secretary general France Castro lambasted the Department of Education, Commission on Human Rights and President Aquino for not acting on their long-standing call against the “continuing blatant attack against alternative schools and human rights abuses committed against their teachers, administrators, students and residents, the atrocities continue.”

“Elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines together with their paramilitary components, the Magahat-Bagani Force, continue to sow fear and threat to life against the true servants of the people,” said Castro.

On Sept. 1, 4 a.m., the paramilitary group attacked Kilometer 16 in Diatagon village, Lianga town and forced residents out of their homes. Killed were Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Dionel Campos, chairperson of the Manobo group Malahutayong Pakigbigsog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) and his cousin Bello Sinzo were all killed.

Alcadev is an alternative school established in 2004 and has served youths from Lumad communities all over Caraga region.

Castro said last year, ACT and the Save our Schools Network appealed several times to DepEd and other government agencies to act on the numerous cases of attacks on schools and human rights abuses committed by the elements of the military against the teachers, administrators and their students.

“To our dismay, all these complaints were simply dismissed by the education department and by the Aquino regime,” said Castro. She added that both the DepEd and Aquino are equally accountable for the killings after they failed to order the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to withdraw their troops in the area.

Castro added that based on their records, after Education Secretary Armin issued DepEd Order Number 221 series of 2013 which allowed military activities inside schools, the number of human rights abuses against the teachers, administrators and students rose up tremendously.

The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) also expressed outrage over the killings. The group said instead of extending educational resources for the development of the IP community of Caraga region, “the incompetent and pro-mining government of BS Aquino has deployed battalions of military forces to secure the investments of mining companies, logging concessionaires and transnational companies in Caraga.”

According to CONTEND, almost half of the operating mining companies in the Philippines are in Caraga. Citing data from the SOS Caraga Network Campaign in 2014, the group said over 180,000 hectares of Caraga’s mountain land is being mined.

“Thus, in spite of the fact that Caraga region is one of the richest parts of the Philippines in terms of natural resources, it remains one of the poorest,” the group said in a statement.

The group also said the militarization of the indigenous communities is part of the US-approved counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan “to disarm the people and prevent communities from defending their right to their ancestral lands, right to resist, and the right to organize.”

‘Revoke Executive Order 546’

Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan meanwhile slammed Executive Order 546 that legitimized the creation of paramilitary groups and private armies. She said the bloodshed in Lumad territories will continue unless Aquino revokes Executive Order 546.

EO 546 was signed in 2006 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the height of the extra-judicial killings in the country. Ilagan said the revised implementing rules and regulations of EO 546 was signed on Aug. 14 by the AFP, Philippine National Police, Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Ilagan said Aquino allowed the proliferation of paramilitaries under the AFP’s command, which are “wreaking terror and havoc in indigenous communities and driving Lumads away from their ancestral domain.”

“Aquino’s inaction on EO 546 is tantamount to a presidential imprimatur on these killings and violations,” Ilagan added.

Meanwhile, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon calls on the House Committee on Human Rights to act motu propio (Latin word for “on his own impulse”) and investigate the recent human rights violation.
“We also enjoin other government agencies, especially the Commission on Human Rights, to stop dilly-dallying and hold accountable those responsible for the death of Samarca, Campos, Sinzo, and other victims of rampant militarization,” said Ridon.

The youth lawmaker also said the military should be castigated and thoroughly investigated for the intensifying attacks against the indigenous peoples. “These human rights violators, along with their minion paramilitary groups, are causing havoc and utter devastation in Lumad communities. This must stop.” ()

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