Lumad and Supporters Hound Sec. Briones at Makati forum, Chained and Locked the Gates of DepEd

SOS during Rappler's forum

Lumad students, teachers and supporters under the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network expressed their dismay as Sec. Briones, whom they branded as “Liling Sinungaling” deliver her speech on “Teaching the Truth” during a Truth, Trust and Democracy forum.

SOS Mindanao spokesperson, Rius Valle cited an example where Sec. Briones blatantly lied to save herself from the humiliation of criminally neglecting the Lumad children to education, “Sec. Briones said in her recent interview that Obello Bay-ao, slain Lumad pupil was not killed by state forces during her term. Obello was shot dead on Sept. 5, 2017, just past a month after Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools while Briones took her office last year, June 2016. Is it just a mistake or a lie, if it’s just a mistake, then she still lied when she said that they know the situation of Lumad children and that they are working hard to for its betterment.”

Valle also belied the previous statement of Sec. Briones that the Department of Education has been working ever since to grant permit for all pending applications from Lumad schools, “Based on the data that we have collected, there are still 15 Lumad schools with pending permit application that DepEd Regional offices have consistently snubbed for an average of one to four years”.

“We can also consider it a lie when Briones said that they are doing their job to protect the rights of Lumad children to education. Sec. Briones continued the implementation of DepEd Memo 221 series of 2013 despite its provisions which allow state forces to use Lumad schools during military operations, thus the intensified human rights violations against Lumad children, which in effect, hindered their studies” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns Secretary-General and SOS Network National lead convener.

WATCH: Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones met with protest in a forum

Meanwhile, Lumad students and supporters chained and locked the gates of DepEd-Main office in Pasig City. “Lumad students, teachers and leaders declare DepEd led by Sec. Briones in collusion with the AFP on closing down and attacking lumad schools and communities. It is an enemy of lumad children and teacher! Hence it deserves a closure order from lumad people,” said Relita Malundras, SOS national network spokesperson.

Lumad children ended their 13-day camp out in front of DepEd Main office as Sec. Briones mercilessly showed no intent of talking to them. Lumad students plan to advance the struggle to save Lumad schools and communities in Mindanao amid intensified military attacks.

WATCH: Lumad students, teachers and parents locked the gate of DepEd central office

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Salinlahi, Save Our Schools Network Join Women in Rising Against Tyranny and Fascism

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Department of Education – Main Office, Pasig City │ Salinlahi alliance for Children’s Concerns, together with Save Our schools (SOS) network join women and children in rising against tyranny and fascism during the 2017 commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).

“Duterte’s militaristic, tyrannical and fascist characteristics are the greatest threats to women and children especially in Lumad communities of Mindanao”, said Rius Valle, SOS Mindanao Spokesperson. Valle also added that the recent threat of crackdown of President Duterte against suspected communist fronts will surely intensify the attacks against schools, “He has been vilifying lumad schools as communist schools, hence, we consider his recent rages as direct threat to Lumad women, children and communities”.

During the same event, Eule Rico Bonganay SOS lead convener and Salinlahi Secretary General stated that Duterte’s war ‘addiction’ has become a bloody war against women, children and national minorities and is no different from previous administrations and in fact worse, “President Duterte is a madman. His open declaration of threats to bomb and destroy lumad schools and the crackdown on legal activists and organizations only formalized what they have already been doing since the beginning, despite the existence of peace talks. The AFP actually is the one not honoring the Duterte government’s words and they are the ones insincere to achieving the path to peace based on justice.”

The groups cited different forms of human rights violations perpetrated by the AFP. “With or without peace talks, the Duterte regime have been compromising the lives and safety of thousands of lumad women and children. Women and children are raped and sexually harassed by elements of the AFP and para-military groups. They are being wooed just for the AFP to be close to them and be able to get some information,” Valle said.

The central call of the event which was led by GABRIELA, Gabriela Women’s Party, Task Force One Billion Rising, New Voice Company and Save Our Schools Network is collective action against different forms of violence under the growing fascism and tyranny of the current US-Duterte regime.

The said event was attended by various personalities like the political activist, director and actress Mae Paner A.K.A Juana Change, theatre actress and singer, Monique Wilson, former beauty queen and known Lumad school supporter, Ms. Maria Isabel Lopez and former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo. ###

Go beyond DepEd legalese; SOS network tells Briones in Lumad school permits’ delay

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Manila-based supporters of the network asserting for self-sustaining lumad education are beginning to flock to the camp out set by Lumad students and teachers in front of the Department of Education central office in Pasig, adding their voices to the calls for DepEd secretary Leonor Briones to condemn AFP attacks on lumad schools in Mindanao.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network led teachers from different Manila schools to witness an actual LitNum or literacy-numeracy class to stress the point which Briones is trying to downplay in her latest grudging statement to the press after the camp out started. “For years, lumad schools have been providing children and adults a nationalist, mass-oriented and scientific education. However, DepEd has been denying Lumad children the right to education and their right to self-determination by allowing AFP attacks on schools while at the same time refusing to grant and/or renew their permits to operate,” said SOS Network lead convener and Salinlahi secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay.

The group mentioned that the education provided by Lumad schools empower both young and old, not just to read and write, but to improve their economic status, health and defense of their ancestral land from incursions like mining and plantations. “An education that promotes and develops Lumad children’s love for their land, country and people made them deliberate targets of AFP attacks. The strength of their community to protect and defend their ancestral lands was hastened by their education,” Bonganay added.

“Gaano man kahirap, sinisikap naming mga boluntaryong guro na magpatuloy sa pagbibigay ng mapagpalayang edukasyon para sa mga batang Lumad. Tinuturuan namin sila, hindi lamang kung paano magbasa at magsulat, kundi kung paano rin ipagtatanggol ang kanilang mga karapatan bilang mga miyembro ng pambansang minorya,” said Teacher Ramel Miguel of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center who also experienced different forms of military harassment. Last June, Teacher Miguel together with his students were holding classes when indiscriminately fired at by members of paramilitary group Alamara for five consecutive days.

Reacting to Secretary Briones’ claim that her ministerial process of permitting schools to operate is non-discriminatory as long as Lumad schools submit the prerequisites, SOS Network Mindanao spokesperson Rius Valle countered that lumad schools have submitted the realistic basic minimum documents based on the existing realities of Lumad communities. He added that the DepEd is imposing layer upon layers of impossible standards that do not match the actual situation and needs of Lumad communities, including electrical wiring plans where grid power do not feed into their villages.

On the other hand, DepEd’s former secretary Armin Luistro issued Memorandum Order 221 in 2013 which enabled the military to enter and occupy schools and interfere in academic activities supposedly as part of their counter insurgency operations.

“Despite many protests in Mindanao that was periodically marched from Mindanao to Manila, the DepEd persisted in upholding the memorandum even as killings of teachers and students by paramilitary groups and their military handlers occurred frequently and bombings have escalated after President Duterte commanded the military to bomb and destroy lumad schools,” added Valle.

Two days before the commemoration of Universal Children’s Day on November 20, the group urged Sec. Briones to hold a dialogue with them and address the issue of military attacks on Lumad schools in Mindanao. “Her career in civic advocacy that raised her profile as a stickler for social and economic rights are now all a bad memory as she seems to become a willing tool in closing down Lumad schools in Mindanao. She can salvage her last remaining posturing for human rights if she grants the permit and recognize lumad schools, scrap DepEd Memorandum 221 and noninterference with Lumad’s way of sustaining their own schools and self-determined paths to development,” Valle concluded. ###

On Briones’ statement that Lumad Schools just need to apply for permit, SOS: We are yearly snubbed by your office

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Save Our Schools Network criticized DepEd Sec. Briones after her recent statement that Lumad schools only need to apply for permit to be recognized. SOS network stated that the Department of Education snubbed the applications from Lumad schools and imposing requirements not applicable in thr far-flung areas.

“Two campuses of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) academy in Carmen, North Cotabato and White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon were denied of permit to operate for four consecutive years after complying with all the DepEd requirements. The respective Division superintendent and Education for Private Schools Supervisor assigned for both schools have already submitted their reports to DepEd after their ocular inspection but still, no permit was released to recognize our schools” said Leah Mae Serra, Teacher in charge, MISFI academy.

SOS Network Mindanao spokesperson Ruis Valle said that the Department of Education is imposing requirements that are not applicable to Lumad areas. “The Department of Education is asking for Electrical permit and Bureau of Fire Permit. Aren’t they informed that most of the Lumad areas do not have electricity? They also ask for computer laboratory equipment for Lumad schools to be recognized. This only shows that the institution supposedly responsible for providing education to Lumad children do not have any idea of the situation in far-flung areas”

Meanwhile, SOS Network lead convener and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay said that there are two possibilities behind the statement of Sec. Briones, “There are only two possibilities on why Briones said that Lumad schools only need to apply permits to be recognized. One, she doesn’t have any idea of what is happening on the ground, or two, she wants to make it look that it is the Lumad schools who are not complying with the DepEd requirements, well in fact, it is the DepEd offices who are ignoring applications from Lumad community schools. Sec. Briones should also investigate the deliberate refusal of DepEd regional offices to release permits to operate as a form of attack against Lumad schools” Bonganay narrated.

Rius Valle added that “For Briones to know what is happening on the ground, the ongoing campout in front of DepEd National office is a great opportunity for a dialogue. We are encouraging her to talk with us, and better if she could visit Lumad community Schools in Mindanao.” ###

Group sets children’s day for DepEd to Act on attacks vs. Lumad Schools

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Save Our Schools network, an alliance of academicians, child rights advocates, lumad students, volunteer teachers and other supporters of lumad schools stormed DepEd National Office, demanding Secretary Briones to act and not be complacent on the continuing cases of military attacks against lumad community schools in Mindanao.

“Sec. Briones has repeatedly ignored our call to rescind DepEd Memo 221, a memorandum issued last 2013 allowing the AFP to use schools in military operations, paving the way to various forms of human rights violations such as killings of students and teachers and forcible evacuation,” said Relita Malundras, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network – National.

SOS Network sets November 20, 2017, Universal Children’s Day, as deadline for Sec. Briones to scrap DepEd Memo 221 and condemn the continuing violations against Lumad students, teachers and community members.

“Sec. Briones should be ashamed of herself for being inutile for the past 16 months in her office while the AFP continues to violate Lumad children’s right to education. This coming Universal Children’s day is the perfect time for her to act and stand beside the Lumad children and uphold their basic right to education.” Malundras added.

According to SOS Network – Southern Mindanao Region spokesperson Rius Valle, “More than 100 Lumad students are still in Bakwit school in UP Diliman as militarization reigns in their ancestral lands. Just this Sept. 5, 2017, a grade six Lumad student, Obello Bay-ao was shot to death by CAGFU and AFP-trained paramilitary group Alamara only 50 meters away from their school,”

“Under the Duterte administration, 39 lumad schools were forcibly closed down by state forces. Attacks against Lumad schools also intensified after the declaration of Martial law in Mindanao and Duterte’s threat to bomb community schools” Valle added.

“Sec. Briones’ DepEd Memo 221 brings more encouragement to fascist state forces to violate Lumad student’s right to education and life. Moreover, it provides blanket protection to state forces as they attack lumad schools and their communities. Why is Sec. Briones so afraid to scrap the memo? Is there any conspiracy between AFP and DepEd to forcibly close community schools?” Valle asked.

Malundras also added that the Department of Education should recognize the more than 200 schools established by Lumads themselves which provide nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented education as the government remains to be inutile in remote areas.

Malundras also encouraged child rights advocates, academicians, religious groups and other supporters of Lumad schools to intensify the call to protect and save Lumad schools as the international children’s day approaches.

“This year’s international Children’s day, let us fearlessly fight for the greatest gift that we could give to Lumad students, their right to education” Malundras ended. ###

SOS TO PUBLIC: INTENSIFYING STATE FASCISM NEEDS INTENSIFYING COLLECTIVE ACTION

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The Save Our Schools (SOS) network called for stronger public vigilance and collective action amidst blatant undermining of human rights in the country.

“The SOS network upholds and protects human rights as it pursues lumad children’s right to education and self-determination and active campaigning against intensifying AFP attacks on lumad schools and communities but the Duterte government’s responses are more bombings, killings, massive displacement due to fascist state policies and plunder of resources,” said Relita Malundras, SOS network national spokesperson.

SOS network cited the recent PhP 1,000.00 budget given to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as a deliberate move to undermine human rights. “While we condemn the commission’s inutility on lumad killings, attacks on schools and communities, the budget cut symbolizes arrogant display of power by Duterte lapdogs in the lower house in their clear attempt to hide state perpetrated violations,” Malundras explained.

The group called on the public to unite and fight state fascism. “Needless to say, we cannot hope for justice to be given by a government ruled by a fascist president. Our hope relies on our unity and collective action. Intensified rights violations require massive and intensified actions,” Malundras continued.

SOS network mentioned that concerted efforts and support of rights advocates gave birth to their own network which will launch its first National conference on Saturday, 16th of September, 1:00 PM-5:30 PM at Benitez Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman. “We need to speak and act for thousands of victims, of children and young people murdered by the Duterte government like Obello Bay-ao, a Manobo recently killed by CAFGU and AFP-backed Alamara, and other members of national minority groups who are here in Metro Manila for the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2017,” concluded Malundras. ###

Save Our Schools Network Unity Statement on President Duterte’s Threat to Bomb Lumad Schools

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The Save Our Schools (SOS) network, a network of children’s rights and human rights advocates advocating for the lumad children’s right to education and right to self-determination, strongly condemn President Rodrigo Duterte’s post State of the Nation Address (SONA) statement that threatened to bomb lumad schools in Mindanao.

We, in the SOS network, has actively campaigned against military attacks on schools during the Aquino administration where lumad schools in Mindanao were viciously attacked and somewhere forcibly closed due to intensified militarization. Lumad leaders and educators were vilified, threatened and killed. The massare in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015 wherein two lumad leaders, Bello Sinzo and Dionel Campos and ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca where killed and still has not found justice almost two years after.

When he was still a mayor of Davao City, President Duterte openly criticized the AFP who were using schools and other public places as posts or barracks. But his statement after his second SONA clearly contradicted his previous support for lumads and showed his prostration to AFP.

President Duterte  openly declared a war against lumad people. He, as the president, vilified and red-tagged lumad schools as schools of the New People’s Army (NPA). True enough, AFP trained, funded and armed paramilitary group Alamara harassed at least four lumad schools in Mindanao the following day.  Duterte’s statements were clearly taken  as a marching order by his lapdogs in the AFP, continuing and intensifying attacks on lumad schools, communities and peoples.

We, in the SOS network, strongly reiterate our stand that education is an inviolable right of children, especially of the oppressed sectors in our society. Lumad schools which were persevered by lumad organizations is an assertion of their basic human rights and their right to self-determination.

We strongly oppose and emphasize our calls to stop AFP attacks on lumad schools and communities, pull out military and AFP backed para military troops in lumad communities and put an end to repressive policies like the Department of Education Memorandum 221 (series of 2013), Oplan Kapayapaan, All-out war policy and the recently extended Martial law in Mindanao.

We are also one in calling for the continuation of the peace talks between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and continue discussing socio-economic reforms that include issues confronted by national minorities.

We,  in the Save Our Schools network particularly demand the following:

  1. President Duterte should retract his statement that vilified and threatened to bomb lumad schools.
  2. President Duterte should instead show his support to initiatives of national minorities by recognizing lumad schools as institutions built by lumad people and respect those as sacred to them and their culture.
  3. Immediately rescind DepEd memorandum 221 (s. 2013) that justifies military presence and encampment in schools.
  4. Lift Martial law in Mindanao as it negatively impact on children and whole of Moro and Christian communities.

Moreover, the Save our Schools Network, recognize that these demands cannot be fully realized without a wide support from different sectors of our society. Thus, we enjoin peace loving advocates and those who value life, especially of children to be one with us in our calls. The need to amplify our voices and transform them into concrete actions is strongly needed in these trying times.

We, in the SOS network, believe that the Filipino people’s strength will prevail amid the storms. ###