CHR asks DepEd to ‘reassess’ closure of 55 ‘lumad’ schools
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) should “reassess” its order to shut down 55 lumad schools and instead hold dialogues with lumad groups, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) appealed on Thursday.
CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said utmost consideration must always be given to the welfare of indigenous peoples (IPs) who have already suffered numerous injustices in their pursuit of self-determination.
“Their struggle for the recognition of IP rights and recurring grievances must be addressed instead of shrinking avenues for their empowerment…We call on the DepEd to reassess its decision and seek to dialogue with the lumads as the party most impacted by this action,” De Guia said in a statement.
“Their right to education should never be compromised in the face of such assertions from the government,” she added.
The suspension of the 55 lumad schools of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (Salugpongan) by the DepEd Region XI also “causes concern” to the Commission “as it affects children, who are also indigenous peoples, recognized as part of the country’s most vulnerable sectors.”
The claim that the said lumad schools are training ground for “rebels” still require substantial pieces of evidence and due process, the Commission stressed, reiterating their warning against using “blanket labels,” which could “endanger the safety of the communities and make them vulnerable to attacks and harassment.”
The CHR also said that in the face of conflict, children should be seen as zones of peace, consistent with the passage of Republic Act No. 11188, also known as the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict law, which protects children from all forms of abuse and violence.
This issue, De Guia said, also raises the need for DepEd to assess if there are enough schools near lumad communities, “which has been said to be the cause for setting up learning spaces run by organizations.”
“Government must contemplate long-term solutions to the realities being faced by Lumad children, who may actually be innocent but are targeted by rebel groups,” she said.
“Suspension of the lumad schools’ operations may fall short as a solution to a complex issue that require a more comprehensive assessment other than from a security perspective,” the CHR spokesperson added. /jpv
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