Lumad and Supporters Hound Sec. Briones at Makati forum, Chained and Locked the Gates of DepEd

SOS during Rappler's forum

Lumad students, teachers and supporters under the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network expressed their dismay as Sec. Briones, whom they branded as “Liling Sinungaling” deliver her speech on “Teaching the Truth” during a Truth, Trust and Democracy forum.

SOS Mindanao spokesperson, Rius Valle cited an example where Sec. Briones blatantly lied to save herself from the humiliation of criminally neglecting the Lumad children to education, “Sec. Briones said in her recent interview that Obello Bay-ao, slain Lumad pupil was not killed by state forces during her term. Obello was shot dead on Sept. 5, 2017, just past a month after Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools while Briones took her office last year, June 2016. Is it just a mistake or a lie, if it’s just a mistake, then she still lied when she said that they know the situation of Lumad children and that they are working hard to for its betterment.”

Valle also belied the previous statement of Sec. Briones that the Department of Education has been working ever since to grant permit for all pending applications from Lumad schools, “Based on the data that we have collected, there are still 15 Lumad schools with pending permit application that DepEd Regional offices have consistently snubbed for an average of one to four years”.

“We can also consider it a lie when Briones said that they are doing their job to protect the rights of Lumad children to education. Sec. Briones continued the implementation of DepEd Memo 221 series of 2013 despite its provisions which allow state forces to use Lumad schools during military operations, thus the intensified human rights violations against Lumad children, which in effect, hindered their studies” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns Secretary-General and SOS Network National lead convener.

WATCH: Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones met with protest in a forum

Meanwhile, Lumad students and supporters chained and locked the gates of DepEd-Main office in Pasig City. “Lumad students, teachers and leaders declare DepEd led by Sec. Briones in collusion with the AFP on closing down and attacking lumad schools and communities. It is an enemy of lumad children and teacher! Hence it deserves a closure order from lumad people,” said Relita Malundras, SOS national network spokesperson.

Lumad children ended their 13-day camp out in front of DepEd Main office as Sec. Briones mercilessly showed no intent of talking to them. Lumad students plan to advance the struggle to save Lumad schools and communities in Mindanao amid intensified military attacks.

WATCH: Lumad students, teachers and parents locked the gate of DepEd central office

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Group sets children’s day for DepEd to Act on attacks vs. Lumad Schools

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Save Our Schools network, an alliance of academicians, child rights advocates, lumad students, volunteer teachers and other supporters of lumad schools stormed DepEd National Office, demanding Secretary Briones to act and not be complacent on the continuing cases of military attacks against lumad community schools in Mindanao.

“Sec. Briones has repeatedly ignored our call to rescind DepEd Memo 221, a memorandum issued last 2013 allowing the AFP to use schools in military operations, paving the way to various forms of human rights violations such as killings of students and teachers and forcible evacuation,” said Relita Malundras, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network – National.

SOS Network sets November 20, 2017, Universal Children’s Day, as deadline for Sec. Briones to scrap DepEd Memo 221 and condemn the continuing violations against Lumad students, teachers and community members.

“Sec. Briones should be ashamed of herself for being inutile for the past 16 months in her office while the AFP continues to violate Lumad children’s right to education. This coming Universal Children’s day is the perfect time for her to act and stand beside the Lumad children and uphold their basic right to education.” Malundras added.

According to SOS Network – Southern Mindanao Region spokesperson Rius Valle, “More than 100 Lumad students are still in Bakwit school in UP Diliman as militarization reigns in their ancestral lands. Just this Sept. 5, 2017, a grade six Lumad student, Obello Bay-ao was shot to death by CAGFU and AFP-trained paramilitary group Alamara only 50 meters away from their school,”

“Under the Duterte administration, 39 lumad schools were forcibly closed down by state forces. Attacks against Lumad schools also intensified after the declaration of Martial law in Mindanao and Duterte’s threat to bomb community schools” Valle added.

“Sec. Briones’ DepEd Memo 221 brings more encouragement to fascist state forces to violate Lumad student’s right to education and life. Moreover, it provides blanket protection to state forces as they attack lumad schools and their communities. Why is Sec. Briones so afraid to scrap the memo? Is there any conspiracy between AFP and DepEd to forcibly close community schools?” Valle asked.

Malundras also added that the Department of Education should recognize the more than 200 schools established by Lumads themselves which provide nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented education as the government remains to be inutile in remote areas.

Malundras also encouraged child rights advocates, academicians, religious groups and other supporters of Lumad schools to intensify the call to protect and save Lumad schools as the international children’s day approaches.

“This year’s international Children’s day, let us fearlessly fight for the greatest gift that we could give to Lumad students, their right to education” Malundras ended. ###

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. ###

PROSECUTE THE KILLERS OF LUMAD EDUCATOR & IP LEADERS, DISBAND PARAMILITARY GROUPS

The Save Our Schools Network strongly condemns yet another case of extrajudicial killings of a lumad educator and IP leaders in Surigao del Sur early morning today.

At 4:00 am today, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) executive director Emerito Samarca together with Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MaPaSu) chair Jionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo were gunned down by elements of paramilitary armed group Mahagat/Bagani forces. The said paramilitary group is under the auspices of the 36th Infantry Battalion of the AFP.

According to SOS Network spokesperson Kharlo Manano, the incident happened within the premises of ALCADEV campus at Sitio Han-Ayan, Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

‘This is outrageous! Truly, schools under the watch of the Aquino administration have become killing fields for even educators and lumad leaders who have shed sweat and tears in order to set up these schools are now being killed in these very grounds,’ Manano added.

Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV is an alternative learning system especially designed to provide secondary education to indigent indigenous youth – the Manobo, Banwaon, Higanon, Talaandig, and Mamanwa of Surigao del Norte and Sur and Agusan Norte and Sur.

Manano lamented that the ALCADEV have been established by lumads themselves with the help of cause-oriented groups. However, instead of recognizing their valuable contribution, the lumad community school has been subjected to harassment and malicious accusations of the state forces and their rabid paramilitary groups.

SOS Network together with other human rights groups held a candle lighting activity in Quezon City to call for justice for the victims of the recent spate of killings in Mindanao.

Manano urged the government to immediately conduct an investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable. ‘We demand justice for this blatant human right violation! We call on the government to prosecute the killers and disband the paramilitary group Mahagat/Bagani forces,’ he ended. ###

JUSTICE

Harasment ng mga paramilitary groups sa mga guro, kinundena ng SOS Network

Kinundena ng Save Our Schools (SOS) network ang panibagong kaso ng harasment, pananakot at interogasyon ng mga elemento ng Magahat/Bagani  paramilitary group sa mga parateachers at mga silbilyan sa San Miguel, Surigao del Sur noong Agosto 9 na nagbunsod ng sapilitang paglikas ng mga biktima.

Sa ulat ng Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), dumating ang 12 armadong kalalakihan na nakasuot ng military uniform na pinamumunuan nina Marcos Bocales at Kalpit Egua sa Purok 16, Sitio Nalindog, Brgy. Bolhoon at sapilitang pinalabas ang mga residente sa kanilang mga bahay. Inihiwalay ang mga babae at lalaki, kabilang ang mga bata at isa-isa silang ininterogeyt, hinaras at pinagbintangang mga tagasuporta ng New People’s Army (NPA).

Ayon kay Kharlo Manano, SOS Network lead convener, hindi rin pinalampas ng mga paramilitary ang mga guro ng Nalindog Tribal Community School na pinatatakbo ng TRIFPSS. Pinasok ng mga ito ang bahay ng mga guro na sina Regine Tejero at Angel Vocales na limang buwang buntis. Tinututukan nila ng baril ang dalawa habang pilit kinukuha ang cellphone ni Regine at tinakot na papakainin umano sya ng bala kung hindi ibibigay. Maging ang guro ay binansagang mga NPA at ang TRIFPPS bilang eskwelahan ng mga rebelde. Nagbanta rin ang mga ito na susunugin ang mga silid aralan kasama ang mga guro sa loob.

Dagdag pa, sapilitang ginawang giya ang magkapatid na Lawrence at Berios Bocales palabas ng komunidad.

“Ang kasong ito ay dagdag muli sa mga kasuklam-suklam na pang-aabuso ng AFP sa pakikipagtulungan sa mga grupong para-militar na sila din mismo ang nagbubuo. Ito ay isa na namang malalang pag-atake sa mga estudyante at guro ng mga lumad community schools sa Mindanao”, ani Manano.

Bunsod ng matinding takot at trauma na kanilang naranasan, sapilitang lumikas  ang mahigit 45 pamilya noong hapon ng araw ding iyon. Hindi na rin nakapagbukas ng klase ang TRIFPSS simula noong Agusto 10. Kasalukuyan namamalagi ang mga bakwit sa Bolhoon Barangay Hall, Gym at Daycare Center.

Ikinabahala ni Manano ang patuloy na paglaki ng bilang ng mga bakwit habang may mahigit 700 Manobo sa Davao City ang hindi pa rin nakakauwi sa kanilang mga komunidad dahil sa patuloy na presensya ng mga militar.

“Sa ilalim ng counter-insurgency program ng pamahalaan na Oplan Bayanihan, hindi mga rebeldeng grupo ang nauubos, kundi mga sibilyan na lumilikas sa takot at mga paaralang winawasak ng mga sundalo,” giit ni Manano.

Simula Enero hanggang Mayo ngayon taon, nakapag dokumento ang SOS Network ng 19 insidente ng pag-atake ng mga militar sa mga lumad community schools. Hindi pa rito kasama ang naitalang kaso ng pagsira sa opisina ng Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), at harassment ng mga myembro ng 67th IBPA sa mga estudyante at guro ng Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. Academy (MISFI) nitong Hunyo.

“Panawagan namin sa mga kongresista at mga senador sa darating na budget hearing na huwag nang bigyan ng pondo ang DND at AFP dahil nagagamit lamang sa paglabag sa karapatan ng mga bata at mamamayan.” Pagtatapos ni Manano. ###

SOS Network to DepEd officials: Stop making promises, take concrete actions to prohibit military in lumad schools

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.###

Dialogue between Deped Asec. Tony Umali and administrators and teachers of Lumad community schools in Mindanao together with SOS Network.

Dialogue between Deped Asec. Tony Umali and administrators and teachers of Lumad community schools in Mindanao together with SOS Network.