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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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. ###

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

grant permit to operate

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. ###

Tribal Chieftain recounts –“They told us to burn our school”

DAVAO CITY- Accounts of repeated efforts by the military to prevent the alternative learning schools of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) from operating were reported by the datus (tribal chieftains) of Talaingod at Save Our Schools Network.

Datu Ginom Andel, a chieftain of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon from Sitio Tibukag, claimed that the elements from the 68th IBPA instructed the local leaders to torch the Salugpungan school in the same locale. “Didto sila nagkampo sa tunga sa DepEd nga eskwelahan ug sa Salugpungan. Nagkalot ug mga foxhole, nya nag sabit ug mga trapal para sa atop”, Datu Ginom remembers.

“Didto sa DepEd na nila ipatawag ang mga tao, kay ilang sturyahon, pangitaan aha daw ang NPA,” (“They called the people into the DepEd (school). There they would speak to them, asking where are the NPA”), he added.

In one particular discussion, Datu Ginom and his companions were called for a meeting in the DepEd school this month of May. There, he recalled, the military told him and the others to burn the school down. “Giingnan mi sa sundalo ‘Sunugon na ninyo dapat kanang eskwelahan, kay mao kana sa komunista’” (“The soldier told us ‘You should burn that school down, because it is run by communists’”). “Gitubag namo ‘Ay dili namo na buhaton, kay kani nga eskwelahan maoy naghatag edukasyon, nya libre pa jud, wa ka lain bayaran.’”(“We replied ‘We wont do that, because this school gave us education that is for free, we don’t have to pay for anything”), Ginom said.

Apart from the efforts to burn the school down, Ginom also said that the military told them to kill the teachers of the Salugpungan should they come to attend the school for the upcoming classes. “Kung naa daw muabot na teacher gikan sa Salugpungan, patyon daw namo, kay sa NPA daw ang eskwelahan, ang teacher kuno kay NPA,” (“If a teacher from Salugpungan arrives, we would have to kill them, because the school is owned by the NPA, the teachers NPA’s themselves”), Ginom added.

Due to these, the chances of opening the Salugpungan school in Tibukag for the upcoming classes is bleak, as state forces continually threaten its staff and to destroy the school structure. Rius Valle, Save Our Schools Network said that the attacks against the schools by the military reflected the real face of the AFP. “Contrary to the claims of peace and development flouted by the AFP in the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, government troops have only sowed terror and displayed interest in further marginalizing the lumad communities of Talaingod,” Valle said.

Valle added, that Ginom’s account of the AFP operation in Sitio Tibukag may be happening across other alternative learning schools in Mindanao as well. “The students in Sitio Tibukag may not be the only ones who will be affected by the presence of military troops, as the AFP continues to harass staff of Salugpungan schools all over Southern Mindanao.###