MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday said it would not literally take President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to bomb lumad schools which he said are being used to indoctrinate young indigenous peoples with communism.
AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said the president was merely trying to drive a point against the “illegal” establishment of lumad schools.
“It was just a matter of strongly communicating a strong position on behalf of government to warn this illegal educational centers who are not complying with government regulation,” Padilla said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Duterte on Monday threatened to order the bombing of lumad schools for teaching children to go against the government, as his once-vibrant ties with the Left turned sour because of the collapse of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.
The plight of the lumad was highlighted by the September 2015 killings of Emerito Samarca, a head teacher of an award-winning school for Lumad youth in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo by paramilitary forces.
Lumad groups, some of whom are based in Duterte’s home region, have pinned their hopes of justice and fair treatment on the firebrand leader, a self-proclaimed socialist.
However, the atmosphere has changed significantly now as the feisty leader seemed to have had enough of the communists, who are being associated with lumad groups.
According to Padilla, lumad schools are “brainwashing” children so they would go against government and perpetuate their “evil” line of thinking.
“The reason why the DepEd (Department of Education) is regulating the way we teach in schools is to make it comply and conform with the value system we want our citizens to learn,” Padilla said.
“But if you target very young minds, vulnerable minds, and try to sway them to a certain kind of thinking, that is brainwashing. Iyon ang mali dito… Fear of God, love of country, love of family, appreciation of the correct values. These schools are not teaching that.”
DUTERTE: LET’S STOP PRODUCING A GENERATION OF HATERS
Duterte himself clarified on Thursday that he had no intention to order the bombing of lumad schools while children are inside them.
“Yes, wala akong sinabi na bombahan ko 'yang may tao kaya sinabi ko umalis kayo diyan. Ibig sabihin, sisirain ko 'yan because you are using a school without a license from the Department of Education,” Duterte told reporters in Negros Oriental.
“Dito sa Pilipinas may batas. Bago ka makabukas ng eskwelahan, you have to have the necessary clearances and everything from government. You are using a building there.”
The President added, lumad schools “destroy the mental health of the children.”
“They grow up there hating government and going to war pag ka malaki na. You are perpetuating the violence in this country and I have to stop it,” he said.
“I have every reason to stop it because you are producing another generation of haters.”
PALACE: LUMAD SCHOOLS LINKED TO THE LEFT
Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag, citing data from the DepEd, noted that there are three main groups of left-oriented indigenous peoples schools in the country.
These schools are the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development, Inc. (Alcadev), Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, Inc. (CLANS), and the Salugpungan Community Learning Center.
Banaag said, Alcadev has no permit to operate and refuses to get a permit from the DepEd. The Clans, on the other hand, has been given 3 months to comply with DepEd requirements.
“There are three indigenous people schools that have been constructed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. It is the illegal lumad schools which drew the President’s adverse reaction,” Banaag said.
LUMAD SCHOOLS FILE COMPLAINT
Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan said lumad students and teachers have filed complaints against paramilitary groups for allegedly attacking lumad schools before the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), one of the mechanisms established by the government and the communist rebels in the course of the peace talks.
The students and teachers also raised concerns over Duterte’s recent pronouncements against them.
“It is lamentable that the Duterte administration continues to encourage such brazen violation of the lumad children’s right to education, instead of supporting the indigenous people’s initiatives to provide free and progressive education to their communities,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Mindanao.
Ending the decades-old communist insurgency has been a top priority for Duterte, but talks have been on and off under the feisty leader, who has accused the communists of being "two-faced" because of their continued armed attacks against government forces.
The President has also lambasted the rebels for collecting “revolutionary taxes” from businesses.
The friction between Duterte and communist leaders also went up another level when the President placed the entire Mindanao under martial law to address the terror threat posed by Islamist extremists.
Duterte said his government will focus on decimating the communist rebels once state troops are done dealing with Islamist extremists sowing terror in Mindanao.