From InterAksyon (Jul 6): Rights group in 3-day campaign vs closure of Lumad schools
Internally displaced lumad villagers affected by the anti-insurgency campaign. Photographed by Erwin Mascarinas.
Advocates for the right to education of indigenous groups are on a three-day campaign in Metro Manila, to try to reverse the decision of officials to shut down dozens of community schools in the South on the basis of the military claim that those behind them are sympathetic to communist rebels.
At a press conference Monday, Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network) said that the three-day "trooping and dialogue" will take the Lumad champions to the Department of Education, and Senate and House education panel members.
"We will conduct a three-day long trooping and dialogue with different concerned institutions and government agencies to bring the issue of Department of Education-Armed Forces of the Philippines' collusion to shut down Lumad community schools in Mindanao. Administrators, teachers and principal of the Lumad schools will also join the activity to personally detail their plight," Save Out Schools Network said in a statement.
In recent years, SOS Network has exposed the negative impact of the government's counter-insurgency program on the lives of Lumad children in Mindanao, particularly the cases of military harassment and attacks on Lumad community schools.
"These schools have been subjected to intense military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), including harassment of teachers, students and community members. Schools are vandalized, destroyed, turned into military barracks/posts and maliciously tagged by the AFP as 'training ground' of armed group New People's Army (NPA)," SOS Network said.
"This concern had already been brought to the attention of Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro last year, but to no avail. Military attacks on schools continued with impunity," they added.
Apparently, the DepEd consented and even colluded with the military in attacking Lumad schools and depriving children of their right to education, the group said.
Recently, SOS Network claimed, the Department of Education Division of Davao del Norte attempted to shut down Lumad community schools.
In a letter dated May 12 addressed to DepEd Region XI Director Alberto Escobarte, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools of Salugpongan Ta'Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy).
The schools have yet to open. Although the schools' Permit to Operate (PTO) have been issued by the department due to the pressure from various concerned institutions, military presence in the schools and communities continues to hinder schools operations, SOS Network said.
Rural Missionaries join SOS Network
Meanwhile, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) plans to join SOS Network for a 3-day trooping and dialogue with different government agencies starting July 6 in Metro Manila.
"First, it was direct armed intimidation and assaults on schools, children and teachers. Lately, military agents openly incited Lumads to burn their schools and even kill their teachers – very irresponsible actions coming no less from agents who should keep the peace and supposed gentlemen of the armed forces", according to Sr. Francis Añover, RMP National Coordinator.
"The Department of Education (Dep-Ed) entered the fray to enforce an exclusively stringent permit-to-operate requirements and conditionalities. This civilian government agency also threatened the take-over of indigenous schools, the operations of which would be passed on to military teachers and the para-military," Añover said.
The indigenous rights to free-prior-informed consent (FPIC) have also been highjacked, this time by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), she said.
Añover said that this civilian government agency have been instructed to issue certificates of FPIC – a requirement to the issuance of a permit-to-operate, only when indigenous communities have secured consent from no less than the military-controlled Provincial Peace and Order Council.
Not to be outdone, she added, "The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has threatened to withdraw cash assistance from its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program to Lumad families who insist on enrolling their children in the schools, which they themselves built."
"All these are orchestrated actions to force the closure of Lumad schools. These are designed in the framework of the government anti-insurgency campaign, known as Oplan Bayanihan. The Aquino government's Tuwid-na-Daan has now employed bullying tactics and vented its ire on indigenous communities. It has resorted to militarize education and held hostage innocent and defenseless Lumad children. It has deprived the children of their future," Sr. Francis added.
The forcible closure of indigenous schools is not simply an issue of compliance to the Dep-Ed's permit-to-operate requirement. The orchestrated actions of civilian and military agencies of this government are attacks to the right to education, the rights of the child and indigenous peoples' rights, Añover said
"Education is a universal right, affirmed by the community of nations in various international laws and treaties. In 2000, under the Millennium Development Goals target, the Philippines had committed to bring half of its out-of-school-youth, to school by 2015," Añover said.
"With the closure of the schools, 3,000 Lumad children have been forced out of their education opportunity."