DepEd memo bars military from schools–Luistro
MANILA, Philippines—Reacting to criticism over his supposed inaction to protect lumad students and teachers, Secretary Armin Luistro maintained he could not revoke a Department of Education (DepEd) memorandum without considering the result, but he assured the protesting group that no school in the country had allowed the military on its campuses.
Luistro in a statement said that while it was easy to revoke a memorandum, particularly the questioned Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict that was issued in 2013, the system of investigation set by its issuance would be voided.
The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network had sought the revocation of controversial DepEd Memorandum 221, charging that it permitted the military to enter schools.
SOS, along with lumad students and teachers from Mindanao, camped outside the DepEd office in Pasig City last week to voice their demand and engaged Luistro in a dialogue on Tuesday.
Luistro said: “There is no school, private or public, that is allowing the entry of any armed individual or group,” stressing that the memorandum specifically banned this.
He pointed out that under the memorandum, armed persons were not allowed to enter school grounds.
“The DepEd memo provides a system of investigation. The process does not end with the divisions. Included in that process is monitoring, investigation and action. DepEd Memo 221 stipulates the process that must be followed,” he said.
He added: “It’s easy to revoke a memorandum. The problem is if I revoke the memo, we will no longer have a process that would allow us to act on your grievance…if I revoke that memorandum we will have no basis (for an investigation).”
Luistro assured the protesters he was one with them in their concern for the safety of the students and personnel in the schools and said that the DepEd would submit the lumads’ and SOS Network’s grievances and complaints to the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict, headed by the Council on the Welfare of Children.
Zones of peace
“We maintain that schools are zones of peace so there should be no armed personnel on school grounds as it puts our students at risk,” he said, emphasizing that military operations were not allowed on school premises, except for civil-military activities like the Brigada Eskwela and medical missions.
The education secretary voiced concern over the SOS Network’s claim of a military presence in Mindanao schools, “but we still need to follow a process, a proper investigation of the allegations we heard in the dialogue.”
He asked those in the affected Mindanao schools to submit documentary evidence like photographs, videos or narratives of the alleged harassment committed by armed personnel for a more “swift and comprehensive investigation.”
On Tuesday, members of the SOS Network with some 50 lumad students and teachers and Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus met with Luistro to address the alleged use of lumad schools and communities as military encampments.
They sought the revocation of DepEd Memorandum 221, which they claimed allowed the military to conduct activities in schools and allegedly resulted in the harassment of teachers and students in lumad community centers in Surigao del Sur and the encampment of Army personnel in Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
The SOS Network said the evacuation of residents from the areas covered by the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, an antiinsurgency operation, had closed down seven community learning centers affecting 569 lumad students.
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