Makabayan bloc wants Congress probe on armed attacks on Lumad schools

Contributed photo
Contributed photo

At least one Lumad school comes under attack per week under the Duterte administration.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat

MANILA – Progressive partylist lawmakers are calling for a congressional investigation on human rights violations and attacks against Lumad schools and communities, which, they said, have worsened after President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

The Gabriela Women’s Party and ACT Teachers Party, together with the Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network), filed the resolution on July 21.

The SOS Network said at least 68 incidents of attacks have affected 89 Lumad schools from July 2016 to July 2017, or at least one attack per week under the Duterte administration.

The group said 80 percent of the military attacks against Lumad schools occurred in Southern Mindanao Region (SMR). The attacks have victimized more than 2,500 students, teachers, staffs and community leaders. Several cases of violations were documented, including military occupation, extra-judicial killings, threat, harassment, intimidation of students and teachers, destruction of school properties, indiscriminate firing, vilification, closure or threat of closure of school, filling of trumped-up charges against school personnel, illegal arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, torture and forcible evacuation.

“From Aquino administration up to now, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is consciously waging a genocidal campaign against Lumads and other indigenous peoples who are resisting the incursion of business interests in their ancestral land,” said SOS lead convenor Eule Rico Bonganay in a statement.

He added that with martial law, state forces use their power to “kill and push Lumads and Moros away from their lands.”

Human rights violations before martial law

The SOS Network has documented human rights violations committed by the state forces even before martial law was declared last May 23. In Davao City, the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) filed a complaint, July 20, with the Commission on Human Rights.

According to the copy of their complaint sent to Bulatlat, between the months of September 2016 to July 15, 2017, the faculty, students, parents and teachers association members in STTICLCI’s seven campuses were subjected to various forms of human rights violations. The respondents were Lt. Col. Emmanuel Canilla, 60th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) commanding officer, Lt. Col. Vicente Adgardo De Ocampo, 68th IBPA commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, 67th IBPA commanding officer and Lt. Col. Gilbert Rou Ruiz, 66th IBPA former commanding officer and Lt. Col. 46th IBPA commanding officer.

The latest incident was in Mabini town, Compostela Valley on July 13 when suspected soldiers strafed the house of Carlito Arado, 54, a member of the peasant organization, Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Mabini (HuMaBin). His wife Carolina, 52, also a Humabin member, was killed on the spot. Their daughter-in-law, Analiza Simbahon and her two children were severely wounded. Simbahon is a member of PTCA of STTICLC in Mabini and president of Masicareg Farmers Association.

Meanwhile in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, the students and teachers of Lumad schools joined the 2,047 individuals who evacuated from nine Lumad communities early this month, after bomber planes were seen circling their areas. Among the evacuees were 200 learners of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and 43 volunteer teachers of five community schools of Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao Sur (TRIFPPS).

“The rehabilitation process from their previous evacuation in 2015 is not yet finished, and justice for Executive Director Emerito Samarca remains elusive. But now, our Lumad brothers and sisters are forced to evacuate again due to heightened attacks by military forces,” said ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio.

Bonganay said only foreign investors who will exploit ancestral lands and its resources will benefit from these atrocities.

“The AFP are exploiting the declaration of martial law and the Marawi crisis in their campaign against progressive groups and Indigenous people of Mindanao hoping that this will ward off opposition against their business operations,” Bonganay said.

Dismayed with Duterte

Meanwhile, the Save our Schools-Southern Mindanao Region (SOS-SMR) expressed dismay after Duterte announced its plan to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, 2017.

“We have considered Duterte as an ally when he was mayor in Davao. We are grateful for how he listened to our appeals to withdraw military and paramilitary elements in our school and communities, and how he helped facilitate our safe return to our homes,” the group said in a unity statement.

The extension of martial law would mean more attacks and abuses against the Lumads. “The Lumad will lose their lives, homes, schools, their ancestral lands, and even their future if Duterte pushes through with the cancellation of the peace talks to give way to an all-out-war. Has President Duterte lost his heart for the Lumad of Mindanao?” they added.

The group vowed to continue to fight for their ancestral lands. “We continue forward with our desire for peace; we continue forward with conviction to protect what is precious to our next generation: land, rights, freedom and justice,” the unity statement read. ()

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