The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network and administrators of lumad community schools in Mindanao held a dialogue yesterday with the Commission on Human Rights to call their attention on the continuing military attacks on schools in lumad communities.
The group expected newly-installed Chairperson Chito Gascon to face them but instead his executive assistant talked to them about their complaints and demands.
After laying down the facts, the group handed the list of the schools under attack by the AFP and para-military groups. According to Kharlo Manano, SOS Network lead convener and secretary-general of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, “The unabated rise of number of schools being attacked has resulted to the violation of the right to education of not less than 5,000 lumad children all over Mindanao. It is imperative that the CHR act on this! They should extensively investigate on these cases and exhaust all legal remedies to hold the perpetrators accountable.”
The group also relayed the neglect of CHR Region 11 to look into the issue when the affected schools sought help from the latter in 2013 and 2014.
The CHR committed to investigate on the cases and review DepEd Memo 221 which the groups point to as one contributing factor that emboldens military presence inside schools. “We have high hopes that the new CHR Chair will take a stand on the side of the lumad children and communities. We urge him to truly uphold human rights,” Manano added
The SOS Network also extended an invitation to CHR to join the National Fact Finding Mission on July 13-15 in Cateel, Davao Oriental that will probe on military abuses in lumad communities, including cases of attacks on schools.###