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    Open letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III

    Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

    AN OPEN LETTER
    To His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III

    RE:  Community schools for indigenous children being shut down by Department of Education in Caraga region (Philippines).

    Number of affected children that will be affected of the school closure: More or less 2,896 Lumad children

    Date of incident: 12 May 2015 up to present

    Place of incident: CARAGA Region

     

    Mr. President,

    The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) joins the Filipino human rights defenders, educators, people’s organizations, and international rights groups to raise our grave concern on the case of closing schools for indigenous people.

    On 12 May 2015, in a letter addressed to Alberto Escobarte, Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI Director, Josephine Fadul, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent, has endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools, which will affect 2,896 Lumad children of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land) (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy).

    We learned that a total of not less than 146 Lumad community schools provide formal and non-formal education to children in various indigenous communities in Mindanao and the majority implement DepEd-accredited formal education. They also provide literacy and numeracy programs and introduce scientific agriculture while strengthening the Lumad’s indigenous culture and traditions.

    Education is a right, like the right to have proper food or a roof over your head. Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education”.

    The indigenous children need not to be deprived to education and at schools soon to be close.

    Since 2011, a total of 82 incidents of state-instigated attacks involving 57 community schools and day care centers in Mindanao have been documented and reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Conflict. These community schools and centers adopted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Directive 25 or Guidelines on the Conduct of AFP Activities Inside or Within the Premises of School or Hospital. Under both directives, military elements are allowed to conduct “civil-military operations” as long as the AFP has a written request and school authorities have given their approval. Since the issuance of the Department Order, an increase in the number of military attacks on community schools has been noted.

    The situation over a decade ago was that public schools were built in town centers, far from upland communities, compelling Lumad children to walk for hours every day to attend their classes. Children unable to endure the difficulty chose not to attend these schools. With more and more children opting not to go to school, Lumad elders in Mindanao, with the support of non-government and church-based organizations, worked hard to put up schools in their own community 10 years ago.

    DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul has also requested permission to build public schools with military men as para-teachers, in place of the community schools being shut down.

    However, these public schools will not serve the purpose of educating Lumad children. The trauma and fear that they have experienced and that the military men have instilled in them in a series of military attacks will negate the possibility of Lumad children learning.

    We ask your administration to:

    1. Urge the Department of Education act on this issue considering that education of indigenous people.
    2. Pull out of soldiers from schools and the use of military acting as educators.

    Finally we call on your administration and all its institutions to uphold the basic human rights of the citizens whom you have sworn to serve.

    Sincerely,

    Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

    http://www.canadaphilippinessolidarity.org/
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canada-Philippines-Solidarity-for-Human-Rights
    /

    Member:  International Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada)/ Stop the Killings Network (STKN-Canada)/ International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Canada)/ International Women’s Alliance (IWA)/ Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice (C4MWJ)/ Mining Justice Alliance (MJA)

    Associate Member: International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA)

    Proud Supporter of Bayan-Canada and Migrante-Canada

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