Tribal Chieftain recounts –“They told us to burn our school”

DAVAO CITY- Accounts of repeated efforts by the military to prevent the alternative learning schools of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) from operating were reported by the datus (tribal chieftains) of Talaingod at Save Our Schools Network.

Datu Ginom Andel, a chieftain of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon from Sitio Tibukag, claimed that the elements from the 68th IBPA instructed the local leaders to torch the Salugpungan school in the same locale. “Didto sila nagkampo sa tunga sa DepEd nga eskwelahan ug sa Salugpungan. Nagkalot ug mga foxhole, nya nag sabit ug mga trapal para sa atop”, Datu Ginom remembers.

“Didto sa DepEd na nila ipatawag ang mga tao, kay ilang sturyahon, pangitaan aha daw ang NPA,” (“They called the people into the DepEd (school). There they would speak to them, asking where are the NPA”), he added.

In one particular discussion, Datu Ginom and his companions were called for a meeting in the DepEd school this month of May. There, he recalled, the military told him and the others to burn the school down. “Giingnan mi sa sundalo ‘Sunugon na ninyo dapat kanang eskwelahan, kay mao kana sa komunista’” (“The soldier told us ‘You should burn that school down, because it is run by communists’”). “Gitubag namo ‘Ay dili namo na buhaton, kay kani nga eskwelahan maoy naghatag edukasyon, nya libre pa jud, wa ka lain bayaran.’”(“We replied ‘We wont do that, because this school gave us education that is for free, we don’t have to pay for anything”), Ginom said.

Apart from the efforts to burn the school down, Ginom also said that the military told them to kill the teachers of the Salugpungan should they come to attend the school for the upcoming classes. “Kung naa daw muabot na teacher gikan sa Salugpungan, patyon daw namo, kay sa NPA daw ang eskwelahan, ang teacher kuno kay NPA,” (“If a teacher from Salugpungan arrives, we would have to kill them, because the school is owned by the NPA, the teachers NPA’s themselves”), Ginom added.

Due to these, the chances of opening the Salugpungan school in Tibukag for the upcoming classes is bleak, as state forces continually threaten its staff and to destroy the school structure. Rius Valle, Save Our Schools Network said that the attacks against the schools by the military reflected the real face of the AFP. “Contrary to the claims of peace and development flouted by the AFP in the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, government troops have only sowed terror and displayed interest in further marginalizing the lumad communities of Talaingod,” Valle said.

Valle added, that Ginom’s account of the AFP operation in Sitio Tibukag may be happening across other alternative learning schools in Mindanao as well. “The students in Sitio Tibukag may not be the only ones who will be affected by the presence of military troops, as the AFP continues to harass staff of Salugpungan schools all over Southern Mindanao.###

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