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

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


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. ###


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!


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. ###

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.###

luksong tinik

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. ###