The Save Our Schools (SOS) network held a dialogue yesterday with Asec. Tony Umali of the Department of Education (DepEd) to present problems encountered by two (2) lumad schools in Mindanao in their compliance with the agency’s Permit to Operate (PTO) and the continuing military attacks on lumad community schools in the island. The dialogue aimed to follow up on the network’s demands presented to the department’s secretary Bro. Armin Luistro last year.
The school administrators of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy narrated all the quandaries they experienced with DepEd in acquiring the PTO that they have received only last June 22.
Percinita Sanchez, MISFI executive director said, “In the past years, the process was not this rigorous. In addition, the PTO’s that they released to us for this school year is very different in form and content from permits released previously. For one, three different schools are listed in one single permit. They have also enumerated additional conditionalities, some of which are downright outrageous like the requirement to enroll our students online through the department’s Learners’ Identification System.”
“With the unjust arduous process and procedures and additional conditionalities, we see this PTO compliance as a tool used by the DepEd to repress and hinder us from providing education services to lumad children in far-flung areas!” Ronnie Garcia, Basic Education Principal of STTICLCI explained.
The group also lamented over the DepEd’s failure to act on the alarming increase of cases of military attacks on lumad schools in Mindanao. “During the dialogue with Bro. Armin Luistro last year, we have called his attention to revoke DepEd memorandum 221 allowing military presence and activities in schools and to declare lumad community schools as protected institutions but again, no substantial results were achieved by our meeting with Asec. Umali today,” stated Kharlo Manano, lead convener of the SOS network and secretary-general of Salinlahi.
The network is waiting for an explanation from the DepEd on their queries. “The DepEd owes us, especially the school administrators and teachers, an explanation. More than the issue of the PTOs, the DepEd needs to answer to lumad children and communities on their neglect to protect them and their schools from abuses of the AFP and para-military groups and their apparent connivance with the military,” Manano added.
DepEd Asec. Umali also mentioned a new issuance of the department related to military presence and activities in schools which is set to be finalized in the coming weeks. “Asec. Umali did not give any details about the draft memorandum but they should see to it that our demands are included! This is the least they can do for now after the many times we have been seeking their intervention regarding this matter. The school administrators are going back to Mindanao and we want them to deliver real good news to lumad children and communities. If the DepEd and Sec. Luistro is not a ‘lapdog’ of the the AFP, we are again challenging him to act in his capacities to prohibit military and para-military troops in schools and communities and finally abrogate DepEd memorandum 221,” ended Manano.###