“We denounce in the strongest possible term the continuing military encampment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in lumad community schools and residential houses in Talaingod Davao del Norte which have resulted to massive forcible evacuation of lumads recently,” said Madella Santiago, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network.
According to the group, military elements belonging to 68th and 60th Infantry battalion had once again sowed terror among the civilians in Talaingod Davao del Norte. “Since January, the soldiers used the 257 residential houses and public infrastructure including the two lumad community school as barracks. Out of fear, residents and students of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLC) sought sanctuary in Davao City,” she added.
Aside from the encampment, the presence of military near schools has caused fear among lumad students and teachers. “In different incidences, soldiers carrying high-powered guns visited the school during class hours and the teachers complained that they were asking for the names of the students and were taking their pictures without consent.
Santiago stressed that the incident is in violation of the RA 7610, or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination which bans military from using schools, hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments and supply depots. “Under the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, government armed forces have continuously violated the rights of civilians. Military operations in the hinterlands continued to pose threat on the right of children to education,” Santiago opined.
Last December, SOS Network held a dialogue with DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro to demand the latter to act on the heightening number of cases of attacks on schools nationwide by revoking the Department Memorandum 221 series 2013 that further permits human rights violations of state armed forces. “With his refusal to revoke DepEd Memo 221, he is equally liable for these violations. But still, as education secretary, we are demanding him to give up on defending the already tattered memorandum,” she ended. ###