SOS NETWORK TO POPE FRANCIS: STAND AND FIGHT WITH US IN ENSURING FILIPINO CHILDREN’S EDUCATION
The Save our Schools network, a network of child rights and human rights organizations expressed its admiration over Pope Francis’ resolve to share mercy and compassion with the marginalized and oppressed Filipino people, especially children. The network also appealed to the pontiff to hear and give attention to the real issues of Filipino families, including children.
“It is appalling that Noynoy Aquino’s address while the Pope is in Malacañang did not even mention about how Filipino families are plunged into deeper poverty and how their rights and dignity as people are violated and disregarded. In fact, what we have seen was Aquino’s blame game,” said Madella Santiago, spokesperson of SOS network and chairperson of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns.
The group also quoted Pope Francis’ address in Malacañang, in front of the president and other government officials, saying “Today the Philippines, together with many other countries in Asia, faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society – a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our Godgiven human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions.”
“Pope Francis has high regard for human dignity and rights, which sadly, the Aquino administration does not possess and more so, blatantly disregard,” Santiago continued. The network cited incidence of continuing human rights violations such as attacks on schools of lumad communities in Mindanao.
The SOS network recently received reports of militarization of IP schools in Davao del Norte. Classes of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated (MISFI) Academy were recently disrupted as teachers were forbidden to go back to some villages of Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, by the Alamara. Alamara is a paramilitary tribal group formed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and employed as members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
In August last year, a mercy mission led by human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao was derailed due to Alamara’s threat to harm anyone who tries to provide humanitarian assistance and document cases of human rights violations in Kapalong area. Santiago further explained, “Violation of children’s and teacher’s human rights are persisting in Kapalong. The Alamara and the AFP didn’t care whether their acts are causing disturbance to the right to development of more than 200 Manobo children or causing much fear and anxiety to children and their teachers while President Aquino seems to keep mum on the issue.”
The group appealed to the pontiff to help them in exposing the evils of human rights violations. “We are asking the pope to stand with us and fight with us. We are appealing to Pope Francis to help us end the reigning culture of impunity perpetuated by the Aquino administration. We are asking him to fight for the right to education and dignity of children of indigenous peoples and other oppressed and exploited Filipino people,” Santiago concluded. ###