“We are saddened that the government’s mandate to recognize and uphold the right of the Lumad to education and self-determination is superseded by a militaristic approach that further marginalizes the Lumad.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The administration of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) said they will challenge the accusations made by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., which served as basis for the order of the Department of Education (DepEd), to suspend operations of 55 Lumad schools.
Esperon alleged that the schools operated by STTICLCI do not teach in accordance with the guidelines set by the DepEd. Esperon accused the STTICLCI of using the children to join rallies and teaching “ideologies that advocate against the government.”
“Mr. Esperon has again resorted to fabricated accusations and red-tagging to justify the closure of Lumad schools,” the STTICLCI said in a statement.
They appeal to the public to support the Lumad schools and their right to education.
“Education is an issue that directly concerns the public. We appeal to the public to support the Lumad children and their right to education and to oppose the injustice depriving them of this right,” the STTICLCI said.
Esperon is also the vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
‘Persistent in complying’
The SSTICLCI said they have been persistent in complying with all the necessary requirements set by the DepEd guidelines for schools for indigenous people. They added that they are also in constant communication with the DepEd Region 11 Office regarding the release of their permit to operate.
That is why it surprised them to receive the order.
“We are saddened that the government’s mandate to recognize and uphold the right of the Lumad to education and self-determination is superseded by a militaristic approach that further marginalizes the Lumad,” the STTICLCI said.
According to the order, a certain former student of the Lumad school executed an affidavit and alleged that the learning module of the school include: how to conduct rallies against the government; learning the songs of the New People’s Army; staging plays about Lumads being tortured and Lumad women being raped; how to use firearms; ambush of military soldiers, clearing the body of dead soldiers; how to withdraw during encounters, confrontations and harassments; how to convince the children to stay with them or fight the government; and other actions to destroy the government.
These claims are all lies and baseless, said Rius Valle, Save our Schools Network spokesperson said.
Valle criticized the DepEd saying that the “institution that is supposed to protect and uphold the children’s right to education, has reduced itself into a stamp-pad for the military, which has targeted the closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao.”
Also, prior to the suspension order, only 11 of the 55 Salugpongan schools remained operating while majority were totally shut down.
DepEd not addressing Lumad schools concerns
Valle lamented that while the DepEd follows the military’s order that is without basis, the DepEd failed to address the real concerns of Salugpongan schools, which they have lobbied for in the past years.
“In the recent months, we and the Salugpongan officers have raised concerns on how the military and paramilitary groups have forcibly closed the schools and even forced the community at gunpoint to destroy some of the school buildings in several villages in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley,” he said.
Yet, he said, they have “never heard a single word from the DepEd protecting or supporting the schools.”
“We have not seen DepEd officials set foot on these schools to see how vulnerable the teachers and students are from the threats, harassments and attacks from the military and paramilitary,” he added.
He said that the DepEd has neglected its duty to uphold the protection of schools by ordering the closure of the Lumad schools without verifying Esperon’s claim.
“We urge fellow advocates and network members to show support for Salugpongan school as state terror and fascism worsened in the third year of Martial Law in Mindanao. The children and their future need us,” the group said.