The Save Our Schools (SOS) network, a network of children’s rights and human rights advocates advocating for the lumad children’s right to education and right to self-determination, strongly condemn President Rodrigo Duterte’s post State of the Nation Address (SONA) statement that threatened to bomb lumad schools in Mindanao.
We, in the SOS network, has actively campaigned against military attacks on schools during the Aquino administration where lumad schools in Mindanao were viciously attacked and somewhere forcibly closed due to intensified militarization. Lumad leaders and educators were vilified, threatened and killed. The massare in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015 wherein two lumad leaders, Bello Sinzo and Dionel Campos and ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca where killed and still has not found justice almost two years after.
When he was still a mayor of Davao City, President Duterte openly criticized the AFP who were using schools and other public places as posts or barracks. But his statement after his second SONA clearly contradicted his previous support for lumads and showed his prostration to AFP.
President Duterte openly declared a war against lumad people. He, as the president, vilified and red-tagged lumad schools as schools of the New People’s Army (NPA). True enough, AFP trained, funded and armed paramilitary group Alamara harassed at least four lumad schools in Mindanao the following day. Duterte’s statements were clearly taken as a marching order by his lapdogs in the AFP, continuing and intensifying attacks on lumad schools, communities and peoples.
We, in the SOS network, strongly reiterate our stand that education is an inviolable right of children, especially of the oppressed sectors in our society. Lumad schools which were persevered by lumad organizations is an assertion of their basic human rights and their right to self-determination.
We strongly oppose and emphasize our calls to stop AFP attacks on lumad schools and communities, pull out military and AFP backed para military troops in lumad communities and put an end to repressive policies like the Department of Education Memorandum 221 (series of 2013), Oplan Kapayapaan, All-out war policy and the recently extended Martial law in Mindanao.
We are also one in calling for the continuation of the peace talks between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and continue discussing socio-economic reforms that include issues confronted by national minorities.
We, in the Save Our Schools network particularly demand the following:
- President Duterte should retract his statement that vilified and threatened to bomb lumad schools.
- President Duterte should instead show his support to initiatives of national minorities by recognizing lumad schools as institutions built by lumad people and respect those as sacred to them and their culture.
- Immediately rescind DepEd memorandum 221 (s. 2013) that justifies military presence and encampment in schools.
- Lift Martial law in Mindanao as it negatively impact on children and whole of Moro and Christian communities.
Moreover, the Save our Schools Network, recognize that these demands cannot be fully realized without a wide support from different sectors of our society. Thus, we enjoin peace loving advocates and those who value life, especially of children to be one with us in our calls. The need to amplify our voices and transform them into concrete actions is strongly needed in these trying times.
We, in the SOS network, believe that the Filipino people’s strength will prevail amid the storms. ###