Spare Lumad schools, groups urge Duterte
DAVAO CITY — A network of indigenous peoples’ schools in Mindanao on Tuesday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to spare learning spaces and communities from attacks, following the President’s statement Monday night threatening to bomb Lumad schools that he said were “operating illegally.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, the President said these schools were being used to indoctrinate youngsters in communist ideology and subversion.
Mr. Duterte also said these schools were operating without permits from the Department of Education (DepEd).
He called on the Lumad to steer clear of these schools.
“It’s their school but they are teaching subversion, communism, everything. So leave that place. I will tell the Lumad now, get way from there. I will bomb them,” he said.
“[It is] because you are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government. You have your own schemes, and so do I,” he added.
Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, said Lumad groups in their network were familiar with Mr. Duterte’s temper, but the President’s attack directed at schools and children was just “too much.”
“The last thing the children want to hear from him is this,” Valle said. “There is no justification for what he said.”
But presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Mr. Duterte’s warning against Lumad schools was intended to stop the practice of using these institutions to foment rebellion against the government.
“[President Duterte] warns them in the strongest terms to discontinue these actions; persistence will warrant appropriate government action,” Abella said in a statement.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, condemned Mr. Duterte’s threat.
“Openly threatening to bomb Lumad schools is as monstrous as it can get,” Olalia said.
“First, you distorted human rights, now you taunt international humanitarian law. Stop the madness already,” he added.
In a statement, ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro said Mr. Duterte’s statement was akin to an “endorsement of violence and murder against indigenous peoples.”
“We demand that the President retract his statement. We demand justice for all victims of militarization of communities, including the thousands of ‘bakwits’ (evacuees) due to martial law,” they said.
By accusing tribal schools of training children to become rebels, Mr. Duterte, they said, effectively ordered the military to continue branding innocent people and their institutions as communist guerrillas.
They described Mr. Duterte’s actions as a “clear red-tagging on a large scale.”
“It hurts us to hear it from the President himself that the Lumad schools will be bombed,” said Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Lumad leader Dionel Campos and a graduate of one of the schools. “It hurts us because we supported and voted for him.”
Campos said she was particularly dismayed by Mr. Duterte’s statement calling their schools illegal.
“This is a big insult to us, Lumad, who worked hard to build our schools,” said Campos, a graduate of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), a secondary school for Lumad which opened in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town in Surigao del Sur province, in 2004. The school’s executive director was killed by members of a paramilitary group in 2015.
SOS Network covers 222 Lumad schools run by religious groups and nongovernment organizations in Mindanao, serving at least 8,251 students.
According to Valle, Lumad schools in their network have secured permits and have been good partners in fighting illiteracy in areas not easily reached by government.
“These schools are partners of the DepEd’s Indigenous Peoples’ Education Program which aims to combat illiteracy in
indigenous communities,” Valle said.
He said some of these schools had won awards, such as the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur, which won the DepEd’s National Literacy Award in 2001 and 2005; and Alcadev, which was a finalist in the same contest in 2014.
“This warning that Lumad schools are illegal is disinformation coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Valle said. —Reports from Karlos Manlupig and Nico Alconaba in Mindanao; and Leila B. Salaverria and Vince F. Nonato in Manila
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