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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On Briones’ statement that Lumad Schools just need to apply for permit, SOS: We are yearly snubbed by your office

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Save Our Schools Network criticized DepEd Sec. Briones after her recent statement that Lumad schools only need to apply for permit to be recognized. SOS network stated that the Department of Education snubbed the applications from Lumad schools and imposing requirements not applicable in thr far-flung areas.

“Two campuses of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) academy in Carmen, North Cotabato and White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon were denied of permit to operate for four consecutive years after complying with all the DepEd requirements. The respective Division superintendent and Education for Private Schools Supervisor assigned for both schools have already submitted their reports to DepEd after their ocular inspection but still, no permit was released to recognize our schools” said Leah Mae Serra, Teacher in charge, MISFI academy.

SOS Network Mindanao spokesperson Ruis Valle said that the Department of Education is imposing requirements that are not applicable to Lumad areas. “The Department of Education is asking for Electrical permit and Bureau of Fire Permit. Aren’t they informed that most of the Lumad areas do not have electricity? They also ask for computer laboratory equipment for Lumad schools to be recognized. This only shows that the institution supposedly responsible for providing education to Lumad children do not have any idea of the situation in far-flung areas”

Meanwhile, SOS Network lead convener and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay said that there are two possibilities behind the statement of Sec. Briones, “There are only two possibilities on why Briones said that Lumad schools only need to apply permits to be recognized. One, she doesn’t have any idea of what is happening on the ground, or two, she wants to make it look that it is the Lumad schools who are not complying with the DepEd requirements, well in fact, it is the DepEd offices who are ignoring applications from Lumad community schools. Sec. Briones should also investigate the deliberate refusal of DepEd regional offices to release permits to operate as a form of attack against Lumad schools” Bonganay narrated.

Rius Valle added that “For Briones to know what is happening on the ground, the ongoing campout in front of DepEd National office is a great opportunity for a dialogue. We are encouraging her to talk with us, and better if she could visit Lumad community Schools in Mindanao.” ###

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. ###

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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Solons urged to probe DepEd’s hand in continuing attacks on lumad schools before approving budget

‘Halos wala na ngang suporta na nakukuha ang mga lumad community schools mula sa pamahalaan, kinakampuhan at inaatake pa sila ng mga militar,’ (Lumad community schools have almost recieved nothing from the government; yet, they have been subjected to encampment and military attacks) this was the sentiment aired by members of Save our Schools Network in a protest action led by GABRIELA during the congressional deliberation on the proposed P436 B DepEd budget for 2016 in the House of Representatives earlier today.

According to Save Our Schools spokesperson Reina Requioma, glaring cases of military attacks on lumad community schools have been documented in recent years. However, despite series of dialogues with the education department regarding the issue, the cases have only increased with impunity.

Requioma said that Sec. Armin Luistro is likewise liable. DepEd memorandum 221, s.2013 or the Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict has permitted the military elements to use schools during their operations. Luistro has not rescinded the memorandum despite numerous protests from lumad community schools.

‘He had failed to provide special protection for lumad community schools and other alternative learning institutions, rather, he conspied with the AFP in turning these schools into unsafe grounds,’ she said.

Last September 1, Emerito ‘Tatay Emok’ Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) chair Dionel Campos and Datu Jovillo Sinzo were killed by elemens of paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani forces under the auspices of the 36th Infantry Battalion. Samarca was found dead in one of the classrooms of ALCADEV at Sitio Han-Ayan, Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

‘Tatay Emok was among the countless individuals who have unselfishly devoted their life in giving educational services to indigenous communities, a responsibility that should be first and foremest the education department’s duty. His unfortunate death could have been prevented had DepEd performed its duty in ensuring protection for lumad schools,’ she continued.

She also recounted that DepEd Davao del Norte Division had attempted to close down lumad schools and requested the installation of public schools which will have military personnel as para-teachers during the opening of classes this school year. ‘We cannot allow the education department to use our taxpayers’ money to sponsor their collusion with the military in attacking the efforts of indigenous communities to provide education for their children,’ she stressed.

‘Kung sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng bansa, unti-unting pinapatay ng programang K-12 ang mga estudyante’t magulang dahil sa sobrang haba, hirap at laki ng gastusin sa pag-aaral. Sa mga kabundukan naman sa Mindanao ay literal silang pinapatay ng mga bala ng mga sundalong pinahintulutan ng DepEd na gawing kampo ang kanilang mga eskwelahan,’ lamented Kharlo Manano, Salinlahi secretary-general.

‘DepEd should consider militarization in lumad schools as a high-priority issue given its appalling impact on the provision of education to the thousands affected students and teachers,’ said Manano. He also urged solons to scrutinize the budget of the education department and check their accountability, particularly Sec. Luistro on the persistence of military attacks on schools. ###

HOR Protest

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.

AFP-DepED tandem violates lumad children’s right to education

The Department of Education (DepEd) is in collusion with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in violating the right of lumad children to education. Thus claimed the Save our Schools network during a press conference today in Intramuros, Manila together with solons from Gabriela Women’s Partylist and Kabataan Partylist.

According to Kharlo Manano, lead convener of the Save Our Schools network and secretary-general of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, “The very department who should foremost uphold children’s right to education seems to be under the command of state military troops.  In December last year, our group held a dialogue with Sec. Armin Luistro but he did not heed our demand to repeal DepEd Memorandum 221 which permits military presence and activities in schools. In fact, we noticed an alarming increase of attacks on schools especially in Mindanao.”

The SOS network cited an increase in incidents documented by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center; from 23 incidences in 2013 to 64 incidences in 2014, involving different schools in Mindanao. While there are 19 documented incidences from January to May of this year in the said island, alone.

“We decided to hold dialogues with different government institutions in Metro Manila like the Senate and House of Representatives so that they can hear our situation and experiences. We want our legislators to support our long-time call to immediately pull out military and para-military troops in our schools and communities,” explained Ricky Balilid, a B’laan teacher of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) Academy.

Last May, news of closure of 24 STTICLC and MISFI academy schools in Davao del Norte caught the public’s attention locally and internationally. “The DepEd uses policies like PERMIT TO OPERATE (PTO) as their tool to repress us while our intention is clear, to be of service to lumad children and communities. With or without the permit, they continue to vilify, threaten and harass us while our students are sorely affected,” said Ronnie Garcia of Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC).

The network and school administrators of STTICLC and MISFI and are also set to troop the Department of Education to hound Sec. Luistro about the persisting attacks on schools in Mindanao.

“Sec. Luistro has become a mere lapdog of the AFP. He follows their command instead of prioritizing the welfare and protection of lumad children and teachers,” added Manano.

The network also scored Operation Plan Bayanihan (OpBay) as the framework of continuing violations. “Intensifying militarization of lumad schools and communities violates lumad children’s right to education and their community’s right to self-determination to destroy their strong unity and pave the way for multi-national mining companies and plantations. Furthermore, the Department of Education’s pressure on the schools wants to do the same,” Manano opined.

“The Aquino government and its line agencies should be held accountable in jeopardizing lumad children’s future!” ended Manano.