Salinlahi, Save Our Schools Network Join Women in Rising Against Tyranny and Fascism

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Department of Education – Main Office, Pasig City │ Salinlahi alliance for Children’s Concerns, together with Save Our schools (SOS) network join women and children in rising against tyranny and fascism during the 2017 commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).

“Duterte’s militaristic, tyrannical and fascist characteristics are the greatest threats to women and children especially in Lumad communities of Mindanao”, said Rius Valle, SOS Mindanao Spokesperson. Valle also added that the recent threat of crackdown of President Duterte against suspected communist fronts will surely intensify the attacks against schools, “He has been vilifying lumad schools as communist schools, hence, we consider his recent rages as direct threat to Lumad women, children and communities”.

During the same event, Eule Rico Bonganay SOS lead convener and Salinlahi Secretary General stated that Duterte’s war ‘addiction’ has become a bloody war against women, children and national minorities and is no different from previous administrations and in fact worse, “President Duterte is a madman. His open declaration of threats to bomb and destroy lumad schools and the crackdown on legal activists and organizations only formalized what they have already been doing since the beginning, despite the existence of peace talks. The AFP actually is the one not honoring the Duterte government’s words and they are the ones insincere to achieving the path to peace based on justice.”

The groups cited different forms of human rights violations perpetrated by the AFP. “With or without peace talks, the Duterte regime have been compromising the lives and safety of thousands of lumad women and children. Women and children are raped and sexually harassed by elements of the AFP and para-military groups. They are being wooed just for the AFP to be close to them and be able to get some information,” Valle said.

The central call of the event which was led by GABRIELA, Gabriela Women’s Party, Task Force One Billion Rising, New Voice Company and Save Our Schools Network is collective action against different forms of violence under the growing fascism and tyranny of the current US-Duterte regime.

The said event was attended by various personalities like the political activist, director and actress Mae Paner A.K.A Juana Change, theatre actress and singer, Monique Wilson, former beauty queen and known Lumad school supporter, Ms. Maria Isabel Lopez and former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo. ###

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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.” ###

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

Remove Rep. Nancy Catamco as IP Committee chair – SOS Network

Save Our Schools network (SOS) joined the protest action led by Sulong Katribu in front of the House of Representatives today. The group called for the removal of North Cotabato 2nd district representative Nancy Catamco from her National Cultural Communities committee chairwomanship in the lower house and to end military attacks on IP schools and communities.

The group lambasted Catamco and called her “anti-indigenous peoples” for her acts of betrayal of lumads who found their sanctuary in the UCCP Haran house in Davao City. Kharlo Manano, secretary-general of Salinlahi and lead convener of the SOS network said “The evacuees in Davao City were further made to suffer in the recent attempts of the police, military and Alamara, upon the command of Nancy Catamco, forcing them to return home. They used brute force in their so-called ‘rescue’ without even addressing the intensifying militarization in their communities, the very reason why the lumads, including more than 500 children, sought refuge in the city.”

Aside from further violations of human rights, the incidence proved how the Aquino government continues to turn a blind eye on the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples. “Even the United Nation Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons (UNSR IDP) Chaloka Beyani raised his concern over the plight of the 700 lumad refugees currently living in Davao City displaced because of the presence of military and paramilitary groups in their communities,” Manano continued.

Beyani, in his statement, also mentioned his concern over the alleged forced recruitment of lumad into para-military group Alamara as well as the reported cases of schools being closed/or occupied by the AFP and Alamara, hampering the access to education of indigenous children.

The network reiterated their call to hold Catamco, the AFP, PNP and BS Aquino accountable for the continuing rights violations of lumads in Mindanao. “We fear that the recent violence in Haran will possibly happen again, especially with Catamco instigating violence inside the sanctuary of the displaced lumads. How many more lumad children should fall victims in the hands of the fascist Aquino regime? We are calling all advocates to unite and echo the call for justice of the peoples of Mindanao, locally and internationally,” Manano ended.

catamco alisin sa pwesto

DepEd Sec. Armin Luistro is a failure in protecting children’s rights to education

Students and teachers  from Lumad community schools in Mindanao together with different organizations under the banner of Save Our Schools Network expressed disappointment over the failure of Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Bro. Armin Luisto to appear in the dialogue earlier today. “For the fourth time, Sec. Luistro showed his cold-heartedness over the plight of lumad students and teachers whose rights were violated due to military operations. Lumad students and teachers from Mindanao have determinedly travelled to Manila to voice out the cases of military encampment and attacks on their schools including the harassment of students and teachers. However, DepEd, again, remain futile in giving concrete resolutions,” said SOS Network Spokesperson Madella Santiago.

The group also slammed the DepEd over the issuance of Memorandum 221, series of 2013 that further allows the use of schools for military purposes. In response, DepEd Assistant Secretary Umali, who appeared in the dialogue, promised to review the said memorandum.

“We are not satisfied with the result of the dialogue, what  Sec. Luistro’s subordinates have promised are the things we have already heard in our previous engagements with them. It is Luistro’s executive power as department secretary to revoke DepEd memo 221 that we seek, not empty promises,” Santiago lamented.

Still, the group said that they will closely monitor whether DepEd will hold its commitment to review said memorandum. “If Sec. Luistro, truly upholds the right of children to education, he should give lumad children a chance to continue their education in peace, without fear caused by military presence inside their schools” ended Santiago.###