“There is no let up in the regime’s campaign to close down Lumad schools. The landlord BS Aquino may have felt so humiliated there are segments of our society who do not depend on his “benevolence”. The Lumad built their own schools to save the children from illiteracy because the government has other priorities. These Lumad schools, for months now, have been the subject of red tagging, threats of closure, and the teachers and students harassed and killed,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairperson.
On October 1, 2015, Percinita Sanchez, executive director of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc., (MISFI) received a “memorandum” from Felipe Cabugnason, barangay captain of White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, saying he will close down MISFI’s schools in his barangay — the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School, named after the Italian missionary priest who was a victim of extrajudicial killing. Cabugnason said the school was proven to be “one of the strings of the New People’s Army (NPA).”
Sanchez was given two days, upon receipt of letter, to close down the school or “the Barangay council will go where the school is located and we automatically close the school,” the letter stated. Cabunagson, MISFI said, was among the signatories in the school’s application for accreditation at the Department of Education (DepEd).
Brgy. White Culaman, for almost a month now, has been virtually under martial law with the presence of soldiers from the 8th and 23rd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army. Barangay captain Cabugnason has been mouthing the same orders coming from the military. Aside from the closure of Lumad schools, residents were arrested, forcibly recruited to the Barangay Defense System, and had to report to the soldiers’ camp at the barangay hall for monitoring.
Meanwhile, the Save Our Schools Network-Southern Mindanao reported that teachers, students, parents of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) attending the school’s 11th Foundation Day and Bwalawan Festival in Talaingod, Davao del Norte were harassed by members of Alamara paramilitary group last September 28. Alamara members led by Lumansad Sibugan blocked the Salugpungan delegation, aiming their bolos and bows and arrows at the contingent. Lumansad Sibugan is the same person presented to the media by the AFP in relation to the evacuees in Haran-United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City and on the Lianga massacre. The contingent was again stopped by soldiers and Kapalong police on their way back, citing absurd violations such as, “driving without uniform, proper shoes, seatbelt etc. to justify the blockade,” added Hilao-Enriquez.
Early this year, STTICLC schools were almost closed down by DepEd Division Supt. Josephine Fadul, “upon AFP’s wiles.” During the 2016 budget deliberations at the Lower House, Education officials admitted the plan to close down 24 Salugpungan schools and replace them with schools ran by soldiers. The plan came out in a meeting called by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), which is under the Office of the President.
“This explains the brazenness of the AFP — harassing teachers and students, threatening to close down or burn the schools, and even killing Lumad school executive Emerito Samarca. These violations are committed with impunity,” Hilao-Enriquez said. “We ask the AFP: Are you doing your mandate to protect and defend the small and powerless in society? Is it wrong for the Lumad children to learn about their rights, their potential to develop as a community and how to defend their land from big foreign businesses?”
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.