(First of 2 parts)
President Rodrigo Duterte based his threat to rain bombs on Lumad schools on false premises and old, discredited military arguments that cut a bloody swathe across indigenous people’s lands during the term of his predecessor.
An irate Duterte uttered his threat at a press conference shortly after his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Duterte said: “Iyung mga Lumad, they are operating without the DepEd’s permit. Kasi eskwelahan sila, but they are teaching subversion, communism.”
“Umalis kayo dyan, sabihin ko sa mga Lumad. Bobombahan ko iyan, isali ko iyang mga istraktura.” (I will tell the Lumad, leave. I will bomb those schools and other infrastructure.)
“I will use the Philippine Air Force. You are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government. Kung may kalokohan kayo, eh di mas lalo na ako,” he added. (If you can make trouble, all the more I can.)
The Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, hustled on Friday to do damage control. He said the AFP would not bomb Lumad schools.
He defended Duterte, claiming the President had just used a “figure of speech”. The commander-in-chief, Padilla said, has a soft heart for children.
It’s not the first time aides have come to Duterte’s rescue.
Presidents don’t have the license to invoke potential crimes against humanity just to put across “a forceful message” -- to warn indigenous folk of their support for Asia’s longest-running insurgency.
That Duterte took pains to find bases for the forceful message displays an attempt to intimidate indigenous folk with the threat of powerful weapons.
Even if some schools were, indeed, operating without accreditation, bombing civilian institutions, especially those geared to child services, would be considered a war crime anywhere but Duterte’s blood-red inner world.
It’s chilling that one man can muster so much bloodlust on imaginary grounds.
There are several cluster of Lumad schools.
The Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI), put up with the help of an ecumenical group, operates in Region XI.
Rius Valle, executive director of “Save Our Schools,” a support network for indigenous schools, said the academy has 16 elementary schools with current (2017-2018) permit to operate status and five more with branch/annex status.
Acceditation from the DepEd is needed for schools offering formal education.
A Malacanang official would later parrot Duterte’s claim, citing the Salugpongan schools for alleged lack of certification.
She could have asked the DepEd Region XI based in Duterte’s home city.
The Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc network has 56 schools with current permit to operate status and one with a recognized status from the education department.
ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL SYSTEM
The Malacanang communications office also cited two other networks of schools, Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development, Incorporated (ALCADEV) and the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, Incorporated or the Clans, as lacking accreditation.
Clans, ALCADEV and its sister network for primary grades, the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), are alternative schools.
They are registered under the DepEd’s Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS), Valle said.
Unlike regular schools, alternative schools do not need yearly accreditation but are periodically certified through the results of students’ performance in equivalency examinations.
The DepEd’s BALS, Surigao del Sur Division, under the Caraga region issued Alcadev a certificate in 2016, acknowledging it as a SEC-registered, non-government organization, managing a secondary alternative school that specializes in agriculture and skills development for the indigenous people (Lumad-Manobo Tribe) and agrarian communities in the province of Surigao del Sur.
The certificate notes that ALCADEV has access to the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Program of the DepEd’s Alternative Learning System (ALSL). These fall under the government’s “Education for All” program, which a piqued Duterte is ready to upend.
The provincial education office “considers recipients of ALCADEV, as out-of-school youths (those not enrolled in any DepEd accredited learning institutions) there fore in need of potential intervention in terms of education,” the certificate notes.
ALS Education program supervisor Alexander D. Dapar Jr. signed the certificate, which also states that ALCADEV learners “were given intervention by ALS Teachers in coordination with the ALCADEV learning facilitators, and were registered to the National Accreditation and Equivalency Examinations.”
The DepEd issued a separate certificate showing the passing rates of ALCADEV students as:
YEAR TAKERS PASSERS PASSING RATE
2012 21 18 86%
2013 25 20 80%
2014 26 17 65%
Another group of schools for Lumad children, facilitated by Fr. Fausto Tentorio Foundation, are "early childhood education (ECED) registered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the barangay, rather than the DepEd, Valle added.
PRIDE OF CARAGA
ALCADEV and TRIFFPS are found in Lianga town. Their students returned to their schools last August, almost a year to the killing of their head teacher and two other community leaders.
The murders forced close to 3,000 individuals to flee to Tandag City, the provincial capital of Surigao del Sur.
Then governor and now Representative Johnny Pimentel accused the AFP of organizing, training and arming paramilitary bands terrorizing Lumad communities into ceding their ancestral lands for mining and plantation operations.
Valle said TRIFPPS originally had 21 schools.
“But four were forced to close due to paramilitary threats and military operations,” he told ABS-CBNNews.
Alcadev, the first Lumad high school, lost its Agusan branch to arsonists in November 2015.
The year before his murder, Samarca received ALCADEV’s award for being Caraga’s top alternative school.
He attended 2014 DepEd National Literacy Conference and Awards where ALCADEV was judged fifth best alternative school nationwide.
ALCADEV’s students and teachers, Valle said, treasure that award because it was achieved during another round of evacuation and forced exile.
TRIFPSS, on the other hand, was the region’s most outstanding literacy program in 2005, and the fourth best nationwide. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signature is on its trophy for the country’s most outstanding literacy program in 2001.
The two schools continued classes in their Tandag tent cities, as certified by the mayor of Lianga town.
“These self-help schools were built by the bare hands of the Lumad people because there were no schools in their communities,” said Jerome Succor Aba, co-chair of the IP group Sandugo.
“These schools are expressions of Lumad people’s hunger for genuine development while preserving their culture of collectivism and care for environment,” he said.
(Next: Target Lumad schools recognized for improving food security in some of PH’s poorest areas)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.