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.” ###

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 children assert right to education through art and play

The LUMAD children bore smiling faces while some yelled happily at the top of their lungs when they successfully jumped over ‘tinik’ (thorns) and made it on the other side unscathed.

The joyous moment was a very rare opportunity especially for lumad children who lived with constant fear and uncertainty. The sounds of gunfire and presence of military elements inside their schools and communities brought everyday risks and threats to their dear lives.

An art and play activity dubbed as Luksong Tinik: Palaro para sa mga batang Lumad was organized by SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns and Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) at the Binhi ng Kalayaan, Luneta park in Manila earlier today in commemoration of November as the National Children’s month.

‘The activity was participated in by almost 50 lumad children who form part of ‘Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015’, a 700 strong contingent composed of lumads, peasants, women, children and other sectors who journeyed to Manila to highlight the issue of militarization and plunder of their ancestral land’, said SALINLAHI secretary general Kharlo Manano.

Through modified traditional Filipino and recreational games and visual arts including patintero, luksong tinik, uprooting the carrot, cat and mouse and face-painting, ‘the lumad children emphasized their plight, aspirations and demands, Manano explained.

Adding twist to the games, Manano said that the lumad children need to get the books, food and peace sign at the end of ‘patintero’. The children compared the ‘taya’ or blocker to the soldiers who attack, encamp and harass them, making their access to education more difficult for them’, Manano said.

According to Manano, thousands of lumad children are deprived of education due to the increasing and persisting cases of military attacks on schools in Mindanao. ‘Recently, the barangay captain of White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon assisted by the military forcibly closed down the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) while the teachers and students were harassed.

This piles up to the long list of cases of military attacks even after the killings of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo caught local and international attention,’ Manano stressed.

‘Using strong and vivid colors, lumad children artfully drew and wrote the words ‘Justice’, ‘Peace’, Stop Lumad Killings’ and ‘Save Our Schools’ on their faces as they cried out loud to stop the attacks on their schools, communities and people!’ ended Manano.###

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SALINLAHI to Pope about Lumad killings and attacks on schools: Help lumads. Impart us your Apostolic Blessing!

In a peaceful gathering in front of the Apostolic Nunciature in Malate, Manila early morning today, child rights organization SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns together with Save Our Schools network members appealed to Pope Francis to hear and give attention on the plight of thousands of lumad children who are caught amidst the massive militarization of indigenous communities in Mindanao. The group was joined in by lumads themselves who presented the letters they wrote for the pontiff.

‘With His solicitude and high regard for human rights and dignity, we are confident that Pope Francis values children, especially the frail and marginalized such as our lumad brothers and sisters in Mindanao. They have a special place in his heart,’ said Salinlahi secretary general and Save our Schools Network lead convener Kharlo Manano describing Pope Francis, who recently made a remarkable support for the refugees who fled Syria to escape the civil war gripping the country.

According to Manano, massive exodus of people threatened by state forces’ rights violations is among the predicaments faced by our indigenous brothers and sisters in Mindanao. ‘In Surigao del Sur, nearly 3000 individuals – half of which are children, were forced to flee their homes in fear after paramilitary forces Magahat-Bagani killed a  lumad educator and two leaders earlier this month’ he continued.

Last September 1, Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) chair Dionel Campos and his cousin Datu Jovillo Sinzo were gunned down by the elements of paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani forces, a group trained and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

‘Walang awa nilang pinaslang ang aking ama. Mismong sa harap ng mga taong nagmamahal sa kanya. Hindi ko maintindihan bakit pinatay nila ang aking ama na nagnais lamang na tulungan ang aming mga katribu at paunlarin ang aming lupang ninuno,’ said Michelle Campos, daughter of Dionel.

Aside from Michelle, teachers from ALCADEV and relatives of the victims were present in the gathering. They travelled to Manila last week for a week-long trooping with different concerned government agencies and institutions to seek justice for the victims.

In addition, the lumads offered a bead necklace, a lumad traditional emblem for friendship and peaceful solidarity, to pope together with their letters of appeal.

‘Pope Francis, hear our misery and prolonged sufferings. Help us protect the indigenous schools, communities and people in Mindanao. Impart us your Apostolic Blessing!’ ended Manano.

In the afternoon, a dialogue with Department of Justice Leila de Lima was held with the objective of soliciting her attention and support for the victims of human rights abuses in Mindanao. ###

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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. ###

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North Cotabato solon scored for weaving absurd story on lumad’s plight and giving blanket of protection over atrocious AFP

Save Our Schools Network scored North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco for weaving absurd and extremely fabricated story about the real plight and demands of lumad evacuees in Davao City, saying that the solon has gravely abused her privilege time in Congress to muddle the issue of militarization in Mindanao.

According to SOS Network lead convener and Salinlahi secretary general Kharlo Manano, Cong. Catamco, in her speech, claimed that the lumad evacuees in UCCP Haran, Davao City continue to suffer due to the inhumane conditions in the sanctuary, accused human rights groups of manipulating and using lumads in rallies and for their own political propaganda.

“Instead of correcting her faults, she [Cong. Catamco] further isolated herself from the lumads who continue to languish due to the prolonged military presence in their areas. She did not only insult her fellow lumads but also belittled them, implying that they are unable to decide and act on their own”, Manano said.

He said that SOS Network invited Cong. Catamco last July to join the fact-finding mission in Davao Oriental and visit the evacuation center hoping that she could give light on the issue of military encampment in communities and lumad schools which have resulted to massive displacement of indigenous communities.

“However, she proved herself as a savior not of the lumads but of the AFP by giving a blanket of protection over state forces and its paramilitary groups who are known to be the perpetrators of numerous human rights violations”, Manano added.

At the same time, Manano chided the congresswoman for continuously discrediting the report of Mr. Chaloka Beyani, United Nation Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons about the lumad evacuees during his official visit in the Philippines. “It is very shameful that even the statement of high level agencies diplomat is being manipulated and put at question in an effort to solidify and prove their false claims”, Manano said.

The network urged congress, particularly the Committees of Human Rights, Ethics and Local Government of the House of Representatives, to further investigate the situation of the lumad evacuees in Haran including the cases of military harassment and encampment in lumad schools and communities. They also demanded the house members to probe the actions of Cong. Catamco, who was also accused of coddling the suspected killers of Father Pops Tentorio an Italian priest well-known for his advocacy for lumads’ welfare, including their right to education by setting up lumad community schools. ###

North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco. Photo from her facebook page

North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco. Photo from Rep. Catamco facebook page.