DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 July) – The suspension of 55 Salugpongan schools in the Davao Region “is a militaristic approach that further marginalizes the Lumad,” the Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center said in a statement on Saturday.
The Department of Education (DepEd) Region 11 issued Friday an order suspending the permit to operate of 55 Salugpongan schools across the Davao region catering to Lumad or indigenous peoples.
Dr. Evelyn Fetalvero, Officer-in-charge Regional Director of DepEd Region 11 issued the order based on an instruction of Education Secretary Leonor Briones to suspend schools that are operating only with a permit for their recognition status.
The suspension order was also based on allegations by National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that the schools were teaching students to rebel against the government and using children for rallies.
Esperon, who served as Army Chief from 2005 to 2006 and Armed Forces Chief of Staff from 2006 to 2008, chairs the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“We are surprised to receive this order as we have been persistent in complying with all the necessary requirements stated in the guidelines for schools for indigenous people and are in constant communication with the DepEd Region 11 Office regarding the release of our permit to operate,” the Salugpongan Learning Center said in its Facebook page..
Salugpongan Learning Center said it will “challenge the accusations made by Esperon which served as basis for DepEd’s order.. Mr. Esperon has again resorted to fabricated accusations and red-tagging to justify the closure of Lumad schools.”
It said it will appeal the suspension of the 55 schools within the five days given to them by DepEd.
“We are saddened that the government's mandate to recognize and uphold the right of the Lumad to education and self-determination is superseded by a militaristic approach that further marginalizes the Lumad.
“Education is an issue that directly concerns the public. We appeal to the public to support the Lumad children and their right to education and to oppose the injustice depriving them of this right,” it added..
In a report published May 3 on pna.gov.ph, Maj. Gen Antonio Parlade Jr. of NTF-ELCAC urged the immediate closure of Salugpongan schools for allegedly recruiting children to become rebels and causing the deaths of tribal leaders opposing their operation.
The same report quoted Parlade as saying the closure must be done even if these schools have acquired the necessary permits from DepEd.
"The issue here is not the validity of the documents. This is about morality in allowing the continuation of these schools, now that we know that the community itself (does) not want them to operate anymore," Parlade, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, said.
Schools run by nongovernment organizations have also been put up in other provinces of Mindanao to give Lumad children in far-flung communities access to education. (MindaNews)