Progressive Groups, Party lists file House Resolutions against Attacks on Lumad Schools, Communities

Lumad educators with ACT rep Tino II

Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, through the ACT Teachers’ Party list and Gabriela Women’s Party filed house resolutions seeking to investigate the cases of human rights violations and military attacks against Lumad schools and communities documented after the declaration of Martial law in Mindanao.

There are 68 incidents of military attacks affecting 89 Lumad schools from July 2016 to July 2017. These attacks have worsened after the declaration of Martial law.

“From Aquino administration up to now, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is consciously waging a genocidal campaign against Lumads and other indigenous peoples who are resisting the incursion of business interests in their ancestral land. With the declaration of Martial law in the entirety of Mindanao, state forces has the upper hand to militarize, kill and push Lumads and Moros away from their lands” said Eule Rico Bonganay, lead convenor, Save Our School Network.

According to the data of SOS Network, about 80% of the military attacks against Lumad schools happened in Southern Mindanao (SMR), the President’s home region. There are 89 schools and more than 2500 students victimized by the said attacks perpetrated by state forces. These cases include military occupation, extra-judicial killings, threat, harassment, intimidation of students and teachers, destruction of school properties, indiscriminate firing, vilification, closure or threat of closure of school, filling of trumped-up charges against school personnel, illegal arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, torture and forcible evacuation.

One of the incidents cited in a house resolution filed in House of Representatives include the reported incident last July 13 where members of peasant organization HuMabin namely Carlito Arado, 54 and Carolina Arado, 52 were killed at their house after members of 46th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army indiscriminately fired at them. At the same time, Analiza Simbahon, a member of Parents Teacher and Community Association (PTCA) of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Macasicareg, Brgy. Anitapan, Mabini and also President of Masicareg Farmers Association, together with her two children was admitted at the hospital due to severe gunshot wounds.

Other resolutions were also filed to investigate the closure of 20 schools of Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS) in Sultan Kudarat; and the indiscriminate firing of a CAFGU member against teachers and students of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center STTILC) in Talaigod, Davao del Norte last June in aid of legislation.

“No one will benefit from these attacks but the Armed Forces and their foreign masters to freely operate their destructive mining and other businesses. The AFP are exploiting the declaration of Martial law and Marawi crisis in their campaign against progressive groups and Indigenous people of Mindanao hoping that this will ward off opposition against from their business operations. ” Bonganay added.

On the other hand, SOS Network lambasted President Duterte over his statement during his meeting with the progressive groups in Malacanang last July 19 claiming that militarization of Lumad communities and its consequent military abuses are just part of the ongoing civil war. “President Duterte has seemingly turned into a narrow, militarist warmonger contrary to his pro-Lumad postures before he became president” said Bonganay, adding that in 2015, Duterte called for the pull-out of state forces in Lumad communities during the Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino administration against our indigenous people who oppose destructive mining activities.

“It is just to oppose the Martial Law extension and call for an end to militarization of Lumad schools and communities in Mindanao. The extension of Martial law will be met with the strongest opposition from the IP communities who have been long victimized by state-perpetrated human rights violations” Bonganay concluded.

Save Our Schools network is also part of the “Hugpongan sa Diliman” a symbolic meet-up of delegates from Mindanao and their supporters in Manila. Around 350 lumad students, teachers and parents are set to hold “Kampuhan” (Camp out) in various schools and offices in Metro Manila in time with President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address to voice out their plight in Mindanao amidst Martial law. ###

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SOS Network to Briones: Immediately take action over attacks on lumad schools in Sultan Kudarat!

The Save our Schools (SOS) network held a protest action outside the gates of the Department of Education today, asking DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones to immediately act on recent attacks on lumad schools under the administration of Center for Lumad Advocacy  and Services, Inc. (CLANS) in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

‘Threats, harassments and intimidations by Mayor Abubacar Bakre Maulana sowed terror among students and teachers of 18 community schools in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. We are very much angered by these actions that the local government took, in collaboration with the military and local offices of government agencies including DepEd,’ SOS spokesperson Reina Requioma narrated.

Reports from CLANS mentioned the intention of the military, LGU and different government agencies involved to vilify the school and its teachers by distributing flyers and hanging tarpaulins which label CLANS as front of the New People’s Army. The said tarpaulins bore the logos of the Palimbang municipal government, the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, the DILG, the DepEd, the Philippine Marines, and the PNP.

She added that these are clear violations of the right of children to education and it is even painstaking to witness the utter disregard of the hard work of non-government organizations like CLANS.

‘Mayor Maulana ordered the closure of CLANS schools and threatened the teachers to stop their work in educating the lumad children, which for us is a very clear order to those providing services for children of national minorities to stop their noble cause!’ Requioma continued.

The network called on Sec. Briones to immediately put an end to these attacks. Requioma challenged the secretary, ‘We are dismayed over the DepEd’s inaction. If Sec. Briones is really an advocate of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) like she mentioned in her July 2016 turn-over message at the DepEd, she should prove it through reprimanding Mayor Maulana, her subordinates in the DepEd office in Palimbang, as well as other agencies to stop attacking lumad alternative schools,’”

SOS network is set to continue the campaign against the on-going attacks on CLANS schools and communities of lumad in Sultan Kudarat, and other similar cases all over Mindanao. ‘We are calling on advocates to continue demanding immediate resolution to these attacks and that can only be achieved when military troops pull out from communities and the likes of Mayor Maulana and government agencies involved be held accountable,’ ended Requioma. ###

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POSITION PAPER ON DEPED MEMORANDUM 221, SERIES OF 2013

Education is a basic human right and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. It is one of the important pillars for the holistic development of children. Quality education helps foster their intellectual and physical capacities as well as their socio-emotional well-being as they develop to become active contributors in society.

The right to education has been explicitly enshrined in various international laws including Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Universally speaking, the right to education must be primarily ensured by the state. In the Philippines, the constitution and local policies promise the promotion and protection of the right of every Filipino, especially children, to education by taking all appropriate steps in making education accessible.

However, most Filipino children have been deprived of this right primarily due to the government’s meager budget allocation and privatization of education. Marginalized peasants and indigenous peoples are the ones far more neglected. The historic abandonment of the government in providing education to the poor and marginalized has pushed lumad communities in Mindanao to persevere in order to educate themselves and their children.

In partnership with different cause-oriented organizations and church institutions, the lumad communities set up their own schools. In Mindanao, there are already 146 lumad community schools that provide education to indigenous communities in Mindanao.

However, in addition to the neglect of the government in ensuring the children’s access to quality education, lumad community schools and public schools (day care, elementary and high schools) located in the hinterlands are now facing the terror brought by military operations under the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.

Under Article X, Sec. 22 of Republic Act 7610 or The Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination, military use of schools, hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots is prohibited. Attack on schools and hospitals, is also one of the six (6) grave child rights violations according to the United Nations. Despite such provision and policy, elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) blatantly use/attack schools and communities during military operations. Soldiers utilize schools as temporary military camps, barracks/shelter, storage of weapons and belongings or as outposts.

Students, teachers and community members live in an unprecedentedly harsh and dangerous environment with the presence of military in schools and communities. Early exposure to violence is one of the alarming and threatening consequences of military attacks on schools. Last March 2012, elements of the 85th Infantry battalion occupied an elementary school in Lopez, Quezon wherein grade school students were encouraged to watch films showing the bloody encounters of the AFP against armed groups.

The sound of gunshots and bombs and the mere presence of soldiers carrying high powered ammunitions in their schools are very disruptive. Classes are often suspended whenever there are military operations and once classes resume, children’s attendance and concentration are affected due to extreme fear of being hurt by military operations.

Aside from the trauma and culture of violence instilled by state forces, destruction of school properties and other relevant educational materials were also recorded. In San Miguel, Las Navas, Samar, elements of the 34th Infantry battalion permanently used the day care center and the barangay health center and church as military quarters. Children complained about the foul odor coming from the walls of the day care center as the soldiers were using it as their urinal.  They also used parts of its wall as firewood leaving the infrastructure unsafe and unpleasant.

Despite the effort of different concerned organizations in bringing the issue to the government, including series of dialogues between Save Our Schools Network and Department of Education (DepEd) National Office since 2012, military attacks on schools continue.  In Mindanao alone, SOS Network has documented 20 Dep Ed schools attacked and/or used by AFP while 214 cases of military attacks on lumad community schools were listed; majority of these cases took place in 2013 and 2014.

The following are some of the documented cases illustrating how children’s right to education is violated by the state armed forces:

  • Military encampment in the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLCI) in Sitio Km. 30, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte by elements under the 60th Infantry Division – Philippine Army. The soldiers stayed both in the school and the teachers’ staff house from March 26-30, 2014. Because of military encampment, the teachers and the whole community decided to postpone the school’s first ever moving up and recognition ceremony.
  • Military encampment in the STTICLCI school in Purok 12, Sitio Nasilaban, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte which happened from April 1-12, 2014. Currently, elements of the 68th Infantry Battalion are encamping near Nasilaban Elementary School and STTICLCI.

 

(NOTE: The military operations and encampment in schools and communities in Talaingod resulted to forcible evacuation of thousands of Manobos last March and April.)

  • In Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST) in Arakan Valley poblacion, North Cotabato, troops of the 10th Special Forces and the 57th IB freely went in and out of the school in full uniform and carrying firearms, playing basketball and using the internet, while openly vilifying progressive student groups.
  • Kalasagan Elementary School in Brgy. San Isidro, Lupon, Davao Oriental was occupied by the 28th IB and the 2nd Scout Rangers; the Barangay Hall, Health Center, community chapel, basketball courts and some homes were likewise occupied.
  • Last October 27, soldiers burned a school after they ransacked and stole the supplies of a community cooperative store in Kabulohan, Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del sur. The community members who shouted at the soldiers and ran toward the school to put out the fire were even indiscriminately fired at by the military. Another school building with two classrooms of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur was also burned in Sitio Kabalawan.

An increase in the number of such incidents was noted after the DepEd has issued Memorandum 221, series of 2013 or Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict that contains guidelines for school officials and DepEd supervisors on how to deal with military units entering schools.  The said memo has adopted the AFP Directive 25 or Guidelines on the Conduct of AFP Activities Inside or Within the Premises of School or Hospital and in essence, supported the military use of schools and the violation of children’s right to education.

According to both DepEd Memo 221 and AFP Letter Directive 25, military elements are allowed to conduct “civil-military operations” such as public fora, symposiums and medical missions inside schools as long as the AFP has requested, through a written request and school authorities gave their approval.

We believe that both guidelines, given its rigid procedures and legalities, is a blatant violation of Philippine laws protecting children as well as international laws. Allowing military presence in educational institutions increases risks for children. The DepEd memo 221 is but a license for the AFP to deliberately attack schools, particularly those schools located in conflict areas and/or communities maliciously tagged as rebel-stronghold.

On the other hand, there are problematic provisions in the AFP Directive 25 that may be subjected to abusive interpretations of the military. Guideline No. 7, for example, states that “If there is a need for the force protection unit(s)/personnel to be inside the school, due to exigencies of the prevailing security situation and/or activity and/or request, they must be deployed and limited/contained to the pre-identified/pre-approved within the school/hospital premises. The provision is unclear on who will determine the presence of the ‘need for force protection units.

Soldiers are also authorized to take photos and video footages of military activities in schools which violates the right to privacy and may lead to surveillance of schools in the guise of documentation.

Protecting children in mind, we are urging the Department of Education as the primary agency duty-bound to ensure the enjoyment of children of their right to education, to:

  1. Immediately revoke the Department of Education Memorandum 221;
  2. Issue a memorandum that clearly prohibits all forms of military operations inside schools or near schools;
  3. Investigate all cases of human rights violations perpetrated against the teachers and students and file cases against the perpetrators;
  4. Declare lumad community schools as protected institutions to ensure the socio-cultural development of children.

Schools are supposed to be zones of peace. Schools are places where children get their education and development. The state being the primary duty bearer of the right to education should immediately act on this issue. Denying the right to education because of military encampments and attacks in various schools is the height of state abandonment.

SOS Network urges President-elect Duterte: Ensure safe balik komunidad, balik eskwela of Lumad people!

SOS

Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network) expresses solidarity with the struggling indigenous communities of Mindanao, who despite threats of military harassment and rights violations with the last stretch of the implementation of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, are set to start school year 2016-2017 with high hopes and strong determination.

In a press conference held today at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, the SOS Network reported that about 5,100 Lumad learners and their 372 teachers are earnestly awaiting the start of classes this June. Last June 1, about 175 teachers were sent off to about 67 IP schools of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) in Southern Mindanao and other neighboring regions. A number of newly-established schools are also set to start operating this school year all over Mindanao.

“There is nothing more inspiring than the resolve of these Lumad children, their families and communities. Despite having experienced multitude of violations wreaked by military personnel – encampments in their schools and communities, threat and harassment, and even the killing of their school’s administrators and leaders – here they are pursuing their humble but noble aspiration to learn and work towards the betterment of their communities,” expressed Reina Requioma, SOS Network Spokesperson.

Despite the good news, SOS Network remains fretful as there are reports that some schools will not be able to resume their operations due to military presence within or near communities. As a result, over 1,000 students will be conducting their classes in makeshift classrooms at the Haran compound in Davao and Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur. They form part of over 4,000 individuals who have been residing in these evacuation centers since last year.

With the opening of classes, the SOS Network calls on the authorities to ensure the safe return of the students and teachers to their respective schools and their undisrupted classes.

“Indeed, change should come for our distressed indigenous peoples! We are urging President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to order the pull-out of all AFP personnel in communities and schools and facilitate the safe return of all displaced Lumad. Needless to say, we will remain steadfast in our goal to ensure that these Lumad children enjoy their right to education, together with their families residing in communities free from AFP atrocities” Requioma ended. ###

SOS Network decries torching of lumad evacuation camp

A child rights group vehemently condemned the torching of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound in Davao City resulting to the injury of five lumad evacuees including three children and two others.

According to initial reports, over 700 lumad evacuees in Haran Compound were roused early dawn today by the outburst of fire which burned down two dormitories of students and shelters of evacuees inside the temporary sanctuary. The evacuees, who were displaced from their militarized communities in May last year, alleged that the burning was premeditated and intentional.

“Military attacks continue to haunt Lumad, even tormenting those who sought safe shelter. This is an abominable act which only a desperate, spiteful party could do; those who oppose the lumad’s intensifying struggle for genuine peace, land and integrity which have garnered a wide support both nationally and internationally in recent years,” said Kharlo Manano, SALINLAHI secretary-general and lead convener of Save Our Schools Network, during a candle-lighting protest held at Boy Scout Rotunda in Quezon City.

The group is asking whether the Alamara, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and even the ill-intentioned Rep. Nancy Catamco has something to do with the arson incident, especially since these actors have been found to be involved in a series of harassments and unwarranted interventions that have put the lives and security of children evacuees and their families at risk.

“The incident also underlines the Aquino government’s complete disregard of our indigenous peoples. Not one person of authority has been made accountable for the numerous human rights violations proliferating in indigenous communities – the very reason why over 700 Lumads are currently displaced. Their call to pull out military troops in indigenous schools and communities continue to fall on deaf ears. Rather, it is being met with further harassment and violence,” Manano ended. ###candle lighting

Lumad filed raps against DepEd Secretary Luistro

_DSC8239QUEZON CITY- Before heading back to Mindanao, Lumad community leaders, students and teachers from Manilakbayan 2015 together with the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network filed an administrative complaint against Department of Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro at the Office of the Ombudsman, Quezon City today.

Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our Schools (SOS) Network Mindanao, said that Secretary Luistro have violated several laws to protect children through the issuance and continued implementation of DepEd Memorandum 221.

Based on the complaint Luistro “may be served with summons and court processes, of violation of Article X, Section 22 of R.A. No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) and Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) as well as Article 13, numbers 1 and 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Article 28, number 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

Further the complaint also includes the filing of administrative complaint against Bro. Luistro for “Gross Misconduct, Grave Abuse of Authority, Gross Oppression and for Conduct Unbecoming of a Public Officer”.

The complaint was lodged by representatives of different Lumad schools and organizations in Mindanao after a three-day camp-out of 200 Lumad and other support groups in front of the Department of Education National Office in Pasig City from November 9 to 11.

“For about six (6) years under the BS Aquino administration, the network gathered around 400 documented and reported cases of attacks on both Lumad and government-run schools in Mindanao. Military aggression in schools, in the form of military encampment, threat, harassment and intimidation, vilification among teachers and students, and incidents of destruction of school property, had intensified and rose in number after the issuance and implementation of Department of Education Memorandum 221” said Valle.

Implemented last 2013, the DepEd Memo 221 or “Guidelines on the Protection of Children during Armed Conflict” allows the military to conduct activities in schools and legitimizes military presence in schools according to SOS Network.

“We gave him two years to revoke the memo. We lobbied and held dialogues with his department multiple times before we gave him a three-day ultimatum. This administrative case is long overdue, we demand full accountability of Sec. Luistro for his transgressions and neglect thereof,” said Valle.

Valle added that Luistro didn’t just ignore the calls of Lumad children to revoke DepEd Memo 221 and to stop military attacks on schools, he became instrumental in the perpetration of military attacks on schools all over Mindanao.

“We have already lost a teacher and many Lumad leaders, we will not wait until we lose another one. We resolve to continue defending Lumad schools and dedicate our efforts to ensure that Aquino and Luistro be held accountable for these attacks against our schools and our people” Valle concluded.##

Lumad gives Sec. Luistro a 3-day ultimatum to address military attacks on schools

‘We are giving DepEd Sec. Luistro a 3-day ultimatum to make a favourable move on the cases of military attacks on lumad community schools in Mindanao by revoking DepEd Memo 221 which blatantly allows the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to use schools in the course of military operations,’ said Kharlo Manano, SALINLAHI secretary general during the 3-day vigil of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao delegates and advocates commenced in front of Department of Education (DepEd) Central Office in Pasay City today.

SALINLAHI and Save Our Schools Network joined in by more than 100 lumad students, teachers and tribal leaders set up the kampuhan to express anger and condemnation over Sec. Luistro’s involvement and connivance with the AFP in perpetuating widespread terror against schools of indigenous peoples in Mindanao. The kampuhan will run until November 11 and around 300 lumad and support groups will arrive on November 10 and 11.

According to the Save Our Schools Network, the cases of military encampment and attacks have intensifed despite the previous dialogue with the education secretary, demanding him to take concrete action on the issue.

The group held the DepEd and the members of the Inter-agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict (IAC-CIAC) responsible upon the issuance of said memo. AIC-CIAC is being headed by Committee for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and composed of other government agencies including Department of National Defense, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Justice, etc.

‘You [Sec. Luistro] promised to resolve this issue by bringing our concern to the interagency body, but until now, we have been counting military atrocities in schools. This only manifests your lack of willingness to help lumad community schools and unmasks that DepEd and other government agencies are machineries of Oplan Bayanihan,’ said Manano.

‘Our schools have been targeted for closure, encampment, vilification, and harassments by the military. Since April, lumad children have been holding classes in evacuation centers after their schools were closed down and after soldiers have encamped their communities,’ said Jomorito Guaynon, spokesperson of Manilakbayan ng Mindanano.

According to Save Our Schools Network spokesperson Reina Requioma, aside from protest action and noise barrage, they will also set up a ‘mobile classroom’ so the lumad children can continue their study inside the kampuhan. Different groups and personalities are expected to join and support the kampuhan. ####

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