Lumad chief says school is military target
DAVAO CITY—A tribal chieftain in Talaingod, Davao del Norte province, had accused government soldiers of instructing the tribe to burn a local school and kill its teachers for their alleged ties with communist rebels.
“You should burn that school down because it is run by communists,” Datu Ginom Andel, chieftain of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon in Sitio Tibukag, Talaingod, quoted a soldier as telling the tribe.
Andel claimed that soldiers belonging to the military’s 68th Infantry Battalion also instructed the tribe to kill teachers of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC), which is supported by religious groups, including the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and several Methodist churches in the United States.
“We were instructed to kill them (teachers) because the school is allegedly owned by the New People’s Army and that even the teachers are NPA (rebels),” Andel said in a statement.
The military, however, denied the allegation, saying soldiers were in the area to support the government’s campaign to bring social services to the communities.
Andel said the incident happened after members of the tribe were summoned by the soldiers to a temporary encampment set up between a public school and the Salugpungan-operated school in the area earlier this month.
“The soldiers constructed an encampment between the Department of Education (DepEd) school and the Salugpungan school. They dug foxholes and mounted tarps as roofs,” Andel said.
“They would then summon the villagers to the DepEd school to talk to them. They asked us where the NPA rebels were,” Andel added.
Andel said the tribe refused to heed the order to burn the school down.
“We cannot do that because this school gave us education that is free. We are not paying for anything,” Andel said.
Lt. Vergel Lacambra, spokesperson of the military’s 10th Infantry Division, said in a phone interview that the military has “long issued directives to our troops regarding activities conducted in schools” in coordination with the DepEd.
Soldiers, he said, conduct “noncombat socio-civic activities” like taking part in “Brigada Eskwela,” a DepEd program to draw volunteers to clean and repair schools in preparation for resumption of classes.
Lacambra urged the tribal leaders to present evidence for the military to act on the complaints.
“We encourage the complainants to present evidence,” Lacambra said.
Because of the alleged instructions by the soldiers, the administration of the STTICLC said the opening of classes next month would be delayed. Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao
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