In the aftermath of the Fourth Mindanao-Wide Conference of the Save our Schools (SOS) Network, transformative education group Educators Forum for Development (EfD) said that the Duterte administration should stop continuing attacks against indigenous people (IP)’s alternative schools. The EfD echoed calls by the SOS Network for military troops to halt operations in and pull out of indigenous peoples and farmers’ communities as these result in human rights violations including the right to education.
According to a report released by the SOS Campaign of the Lumad in Southern Mindanao, Caraga, Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen, there have been 168 incidents of military attacks on 47 Lumad schools under the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan and the Duterte administration’s Oplan Kapayapaan. More than 1,000 families and 5,000 students have been victims of forced evacuation, threat, harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, and surveillance. There have also been cases of extrajudicial killings, filing of trumped-up charges, and schools closure.
These have been perpetrated by 16 battalions and 2 brigades of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with paramilitary troops and even some government agencies. More than half of total AFP troops are deployed in Mindanao, the report noted. State and paramilitary forces are known to secure big business and landlords interests over the resource-rich island.
To date, SOS has recorded 15 cases of military encampment affecting five Lumad schools since the president’s cancellation of the peace talks between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The EfD lamented that AFP attacks against farmers and indigenous communities have only intensified and involved aerial bombings, shelling and strafing, as in Compostela Valley, Sarangani and even Abra. It was also during this period that Ramon and Leonela Pesadilla, a couple who had donated land for a Lumad school, were murdered in their home.
The EfD said that this rabid miliarization continues to put schools and their supporters in the line of fire and subverts the gains built by the Lumad in establishing educational facilities where government has provided none. The continued attacks against schools also tend to offset Duterte’s pro-Lumad pronouncements especially when he was Davao mayor. The administration should end these attacks and execute its duty to uphold the Lumad and every other Filipino’s right to education, said EfD. The group meanwhile vowed to amplify the call to help and advance indigenous people’s alternative schools and to gather wider support for this advocacy.