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Sarah orders closure of 11 tribal schools

DAVAO City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte has called for the immediate closure of 11 tribal schools operated by the Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STICLCI) in the city, accusing its backers of "deceptive acts and practices."

In a statement released on Monday, Sara cited the March 19, 2019 City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) resolution asking the Department of Education (DepEd) to terminate Salugpungan's permit to operate.

The CPOC resolution cited the local government's findings that include the persistent problem of Salugpungan students not having academic records and individual learner’s reference numbers. The findings also noted the presence of DepEd schools in areas where Salugpungan operates, negating the purpose of a Salugpungan school.

Worse, the mayor said the Salungpungan learners are being used by its backers to raise funds that never went to the intended beneficiaries, and are instead being used for anti-government propaganda.

In particular, Sara singled out the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, which she said "continues to shamelessly lick its wound publicly over the closure of Salugpungan schools. It scampered in obvious panic, but it is relentless in its efforts to sow disinformation about the government and why the closure was enforced."

According to the mayor, the SOS Network even hosted a concert in Manila — a fundraiser for the so-called students of “bakwit school” or a “school-on-the-run”.

“It is clearly another form of abuse and oppression of Lumad children by a group that pretends being its protectors and defenders. A bakwit school, just like Salugpungan schools, is useless because it is not and it will never be recognized by DepEd and it is another ploy to solicit pity and money from the public, while advancing their propaganda against the government,” she added.

Duterte maintained that the students of "bakwit" schools are Indigenous People's children sprung out by SOS Network from their communities and forcibly brought in to the cities, "away from their homes to be used as poster boys and girls in their anti-government agenda."

“Salugpungan clearly failed to give justice to the sacrifices and dreams of the Lumad students who spent their time with their organization, believing the school will help them better their chances in the future. Salugpungan shall never operate in Davao City again because of this failure and unforgivable injustice,” the mayor said.

Sara issued the statement following Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata's privilege speech on Tuesday (September 24), in which the latter appealed to her colleagues to investigate the accusation leveled against STICLCI as a recruitment venue for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“I appeal to my colleagues that we need to verify this accusation and see how as a collective body we can address the need to protect the rights of the Lumad children to education,” Librado-Morata said.

Specifically, Librado-Morata was referring to the seven IP schools located in Paquibato and Marilog which are among the 55 IP schools ordered to be temporarily closed DepEd-Region 11.

But the mayor urged Librado-Morata to first "check the facts that form the basis of the request for closure, and not rely on the disinformation fed to her by the Makabayan bloc" and the CPP-NPA.

“The city government conducted due diligence in inquiring into the activities of Salugpungan schools before coming up with a CPOC resolution. The decision was based on facts, not on a whim or rumors as critics and anti-government forces want the public to believe,” Duterte pointed out.

Moreover, Sara said the CPOC resolution came after the local government was provided with a written report containing the revelation made by a former Salugpungan student about the school teaching students how to use firearms, aside from them being indoctrinated with anti-government propaganda.

In July, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon accused the Salugpungan tribal school system of promoting the CPP-NPA's communist ideology that espouses the violent overthrow of the government; training its students to hold mass actions against the government; and using curriculums not in accordance with the DepEd guidelines.

Esperon, who is also the vice-chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said the allegations are backed by the testimonies of former students and teachers.

Also in July, Datu Joel Unad, chairman of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders, said DepEd should close the Salugpungan school system for propagating the "ideology" behind the communist rebellion in the country.

Unad made the call following DepEd's order earlier that month temporarily suspending the operation of 55 Salugpungan schools in Region 11.

STTICLCI executive director Maria Eugenia Nolasco has denied the allegations.

DepEd-11 has since created a committee to investigate the claims and issue a recommendation whether to lift or make permanent the temporary suspension on STTICLCI's permit to operate.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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