DAVAO CITY – An alliance of child rights advocates called on the government to act swiftly on stopping the attacks against indigenous peoples schools who are closed on allegations that they are run by the New People’s Army.

Rius Valle, Save our Schools  Network spokesperson for Mindanao, said there are 22 out of 162 lumad schools in Mindanao that were closed or classes were suspended due to military harassment and encampment of their schools and communities. He said military operations and encampment has resulted to 6,000 lumads affected of forcible evacuation and displacement from September to November 2015 alone.

“Despite of the concern and sympathy that the killing of the executive director of a  lumad school and the lumad leaders got from the public, there is no let-up in the military operations for the closure of lumad schools. The military not only continued but has become more bold in their attacks against lumad community and people,“ said Valle.

Valle added that after the September 1 massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, 18 lumad schools run by the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) were forcibly closed-down as 3,000 lumad evacuated in Tandag City.

In a report of the recently held International Fact-Finding Mission in Surigao del Sur dated November 9, 2015, it was stated that out of 18 schools affected, one TRIFPSS school was totally scorched along with several houses, while two were partially burned. A teachers’ cottage of  ALCADEV was also burned down last November 10, 2015 in Barangay Padiay, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

In Southern Mindanao region, several lumad schools in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley were also burned down and forced to stop classed due to military encampment.

Valle added that while the lumad leaders of Kitaotao, Bukidnon were in Manila for the Manilakbayan caravan protest from October to November, 24 students of their lumad school, Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School, were forced to flee as the school was was forcibly closed and was demolished by the village chief Felipe Cabugnason along with the 8th Infantry Battalion.

Valle also slammed the connivance of different government agencies and local government units with the military in perpetrating these attacks. He added that under the Aquino adminstration’s Oplan Bayanihan, several government agencies were “used to suppress lumad schools”.

“Instead of supporting community-initiated lumad schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) complements Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Letter Directive 25 through the issuance of DepEd Memo 221, which allows and legitimizes military presence in schools and other public places,” he said.

But Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said in previous interviews that the memorandum “provides our schools with very clear guidelines on ensuring that schools are not used as places for military activity by any group except for those that are explicitly provided by the memo and limited by those parameters.”

Valle also reports that in Southern Mindanao, “the National Commission on Indigenous People, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) have been actively participating in military operations aside from complementing military psy-war tactics by providing conditional cash programs to lumad communities.”

The progressive groups here are set to hold a protest actions from morning until the afternoon on the International Human Rights Day on Thursday. (davaotoday.com)

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