A familiar scene was set, as children’s rights non-government organization (NGO) Save Our School (SOS) Network reported yet another case of dissenters being silenced by state agents.
The day was December 3, when Lumads and other willing participants mobilized peacefully in front of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) office in Pasig City to condemn the continued red-tagging on students and teachers and the violation of education perpetuated by the agency.
“DepEd violates its declared mission of ‘protecting and promoting the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based, and complete basic education.’ It has become an instrument of the fascist Duterte regime, consequently condoning state attacks unto Lumad youth and students,” SOS said in a press release.
However, the peaceful protest was disrupted by the presence of police force, who reportedly harassed those who were in the protest. DepEd personnel were also said to be on the scene.
One of the protesters was heard telling an officer “hindi n’yo na nga nirespeto ang aming karapatan sa edukasyon, ngayon, hindi pa ninyo rerespetuhin ang expression namin dito! Sir, nasa laws natin ‘yan!”
The network further explained that there were about 178 Lumad-schools forced to close down and being dismantled by the military, reiterating that the schools were built to help the Lumad folk in Mindanao in securing quality education.This was done with the aid of indigenous and missionary groups.
“Yet, the military and the current Duterte administration has branded Lumad schools as ‘terrorists’ and ‘communists’ supported with false evidence such testimonies from fake surrenderees, state-appointed lumad leaders and manipulated narratives,” the network explained, condemning the agency’s active stance in joining the highly militaristic “whole of nation approach” to counterinsurgency.
They added that the department is now using their authority to foreclose schools without proper processing.
“Worse, the DepEd has shifted its position from recognizing and granting permits to these schools to condoning the attacks by issuing closure orders without due process and critically examining the claims against the schools,” the group continued, denouncing DepEd’s continued inaction in the midst of 1,000 cases of attacks on Lumad schools.
The network ended their press release condemning DepEd’s “inutility and hypocrisy” in promoting education, and for “disenfranchising” about 1,500 Lumad students because of their negligence.
A crash course on miseducation
SOS Network’s words on closing down schools bring to mind an incident from 2019, when DepEd forcibly shut down 55 Lumad schools that were operating within the region of Davao. Managed by the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Incorporated (STTICLCI), these schools were closed down under the Department’s impression that they were being used as fronts for New People’s Army (NPA) training activities.
This move from DepEd was mocked and criticized a year later, when online users quickly called hypocrisy on the department’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples greeting.
In the same article from Interaksyon, the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) explained that the number of Lumad schools that were closed was actually 157. They cited that this was a direct violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Article 14, which stated that indeigenous folk should have a right to education.
SOS Network’s comments on state agents harassing Lumad schools also bring to mind a fairly recent incident involving the demolition of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy in San Fernando at the hands of paramilitary group Bagani.
In addition to closing down schools, DepEd director Beatriz Torno was being sued for red-tagging by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Central Luzon (ACT-CL), calling Torno’s comments during a Pampanga Press Club to be “baseless and downright malicious.”
Reports of attacks on Lumads have grown beyond education, with them including the arrest of four Aetas being charged under the Terror Law and the home seven Lumads in Misamis Oriental being raided by police last June. [P]
Photo from Save Our Schools (SOS) Network