From InterAksyon (Jun 5): AFP denies Karapatan's claim of encampment in Lumad schools
Weapons captured from suspected insurgents in Eastern Mindanao. Photograph from EastMinCom.
The military on Friday debunked Karapatan's claim that soldiers were using a Lumad school in Talaingod, Davao del Norte for counter-insurgency purposes allegedly in connivance with school officials.
"We are partnering with different stakeholders in promoting Bayanihan spirit among Filipinos. There is nothing wrong if we support DepEd (Department of Education) in preparing school facilities during Brigada Eskwela and other community activities, like our Youth Leadership Summit and Medical Mission. The people have appreciated our services and more and more NPA members have renounced armed struggle after realizing the futility of their cause," retorted Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO) chief, in rebuttal to Karapatan.
In a statement, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay had accused the military and DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro of being "a conduit of the military's implementation of the government's counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan."
"The way Sec. Luistro holds on to the Department of Education's Memorandum 221 of 2013 and his inaction on the plight of the Lumad children at risk of the military's encampment in Lumad schools shows how he and his department are used by the military to justify their presence in the learning centers," Palabay lamented.
She said such kind of partnership could lead to the closure of the schools established by the Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) following the recommendation of the DepEd School Division Superintendent Dr. Josephine Fadul to Atty. Alberto Escobarte, director of DepEd Region XI.
"Worse, Fadul requested the creation of a new public high school with the military as para-teachers, citing an agreement made during a meeting with the Regional Intelligence Committee. If this is not counter-insurgency at the expense of children who only wanted to go to school, then what is this, Sec. Luistro?" she said.
"Memo 221 is DepEd's version of the AFP's directive#25. Both legitimize the use of schools/educational institutions for military purposes. DepEd's version uses 'civil-military operations' as cover. But CMO operations are just a part of the AFP combat operations," she added.
Cabunoc dismissed the accusation, and urged Karapatan instead to partner with the AFP and DepEd to help further improve school buildings to make possible better education condition for the Lumad students.
"Karapatan must partner with us in our community activities rather than remain fault-finders behind the fence. Karapatan must also fight for the rights of the people who are victimized by the New People's Army's extortion and summary executions. They must also fight for the rights of the innocent victims of the NPA purges, like the deaths of more or less 400 people in Inopacan Leyte due to the CPP-NPA-NDF's 'Oplan Linis' in the late 80s," Cabinoc said.
He said the AFP Bayanihan program had already convinced at least 79 NPA members to return to the fold of the law through the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
"These rebel returnees have found out that their leaders have taken the lion's share of the extortion money taken from mining firms and small-time farmers," he said.
Based on the latest Eastmincom data, two out of 3 NPA rebels in its area of operation are Lumads.