Charges eyed vs DepEd chief over ‘lumad’ school closures
MANILA, Philippines — Militant lawmakers on Tuesday said they were considering filing graft charges against Education Secretary Leonor Briones for ordering the closure of 55 schools serving the “lumad” communities in southern Mindanao.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Briones had exposed herself to a graft suit for arbitrarily shutting down the schools without due process.
“We condemn this order to suspend without basis, and in violation of the basic law to due process,” he said at a press briefing.
Zarate made the statement a day after six Makabayan lawmakers filed House Resolution No. 58, urging the House of Representatives to investigate the closure of 55 schools under the nonprofit Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.
‘Not following guidelines’
On July 10, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao Region issued the suspension order against the Salugpongan schools following a report from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that accused the schools of not teaching in accordance with DepEd guidelines.
Zarate slammed the DepEd chief for giving weight to a “traveling affidavit” that the military uses anytime it pleases.
“The schools were suspended without any clear evidence, except for a self-serving affidavit which has been recycled after it was used to file child abuse charges against [ACT Teachers] Rep. France Castro and former lawmaker Satur Ocampo,” he said.
According to Zarate, Briones’ order has sanctioned the schools even before she could allow the management to answer the allegations.
“Instead of the DepEd protecting the rights of students to education, it is now allowing itself to be weaponized to further discriminate lumads,” he said.
Zarate said Briones could face charges for depriving lumad students of their right to education amid the government’s failure to provide these basic needs, and without offering to provide any alternative following the schools’ closure.
Castro said Briones should be held liable for ordering the schools’ suspension without considering the plight of 11,000 students who would be affected by the impending closures.
“What is [the DepEd’s] alternative? Where will these lumad youth study now?” she said.