“The capture of retired major general Jovito Palparan three years after his arrest warrant was issued by the court, though a welcome development, is still insufficient. If anything, it reminded us that human rights violations continue with impunity and have not spared children as soldiers occupy civilian communities including public places such as schools in the course of military operations.” said Kharlo Manano, spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network) during their Photo exhibit in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) today.
With the theme “Bakas: Mga larawan ng Saya, Ligalig at Pag-asa, the photo exhibit highlighted the cases of military encampment and harassments in Lumad (Indigenous) schools in the country and its alarming effects on students, teachers and communities.
The affair served as a soft-launch of the SOS network, a network of child rights advocates and other stakeholders who are advocating children’s right to education. Among the organizations are Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), GABRIELA, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, ACT Teachers Partylist, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).
“We raise alarm at the increasing number of reports of alternative schools being used as barracks and detachments in the course of the Aquino government’s counter insurgency campaign. As depicted in the pictures, the presence of soldiers in peasant and indigenous people’s communities, especially in schools, still bring forth fear and terror among the affected population, including children which reminds us of the horror brought by the reign of the Butcher Jovito Palparan during his service in the military,” said SALINLAHI secretary general Kharlo Manano.
According to Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), most of the schools continuously being attacked and occupied by the military are alternative schools borne out of collective efforts of people’s organizations and church groups as government failed to provide education for lumad communities.
“Education is a basic human right and the presence of military elements in schools clearly deprives children of this sacred, inviolable right. Furthermore, we cannot underscore enough the trauma that military presence and operations leave on children. In most cases, military encampment and the consequent atrocities have forced lumad (indigenous) communities to evacuate their communities in order to seek refuge,” said Jacquiline Ruiz CRC Executive Director.
Aside from cultural performances and solidarity messages from various groups and participants, lumad evacuees from Mindanao shared their stories and plead for support. “As the attacks on schools and these communities become vicious and intense, the need to further our advocacy to protect these communities and schools from military occupation and our children from military harassment becomes apparent and urgent,” Manano ended.###