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Salugpongan still operates despite suspension order

DAVAO CITY–The Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLCI) remains in operation despite the suspension order served by the Department of Education (DepEd) on July 12.
    
In an interview Friday, STTICLCI executive director Maria Eugenia Nolasco said the 55 schools around Davao Region whose permit to operate was suspended by DepEd-11 will still hold classes following the advice of their legal counsels.
    
“Until no conclusion is reached on the issue, our operations will continue. The case is still being heard after we were afforded the chance to air our side, so there’s no reason for us to stop what we’re doing,” Nolasco said in Filipino.
    
Nolasco said she received the DepEd’s suspension order but added that there was no attachment of the report containing the allegations that Salugpongan has links with the communist rebel movement.
    
Nolasco said they are in constant communication with DepEd-Region 11 as they seek to “consistently” comply with all the requirements needed for their annual permit renewal.
    
But she said DepEd’s decision to suspend their permit after 10 years of operation has saddened Salugpongan learners and officials.
    
“For 10 years, we have followed the guidelines and requirements set by DepEd. If they spot any deficiency, the usual process is to inform the institution and give it time to comply,” she added.

No operation
    
But DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenilieto Atillo disagreed with Nolasco’s interpretation of the agency’s order, saying suspension means stoppage of operation.
    
Because its classes are not recognized by DepEd, Atillo said Salugpongan’s learners cannot be promoted to the next grade.
    
“If the Salugpongan promised the children for progress and promotion to the next grade level, then that will constitute to another violation that we will deal appropriately, simply because they are under suspension,” he said Friday.
    
Atillo said the Salugpongan should instead comply with DepEd’s request to transfer their students to the nearest public schools in their communities.
    
Nolasco said the DepEd cannot stop their classes simply because of allegations made by National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon are still being investigated.
    
She was referring to Esperon’s findings that Salugpongan schools are promoting the “violent” ideology of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
    
Nolasco denied the accusation, saying if it were true, “how come the DepEd has issued permit for us to operate for the past 10 years?”
    
“We will not be given the permit if we did not follow DepEd’s guidelines. It is only this year that we have difficulties in securing the permit because of the implementation of EO 70 and the allegations from Secretary Esperon,” she said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order that seeks to strengthen the government’s effort against communist insurgency.
    
Nolasco said Salugpongan schools advocate the education of Indigenous Peoples (IP), a program that was piloted by DepEd itself.
    
“We have been part of their advocacy and we hope they will recognize our institution as well as our curriculum in giving fair education that is culturally-sensitive and culturally-acceptable,” she said.
    
“We will exhaust all our means to serve more communities,” she added. (PNA)

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