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Child rights group: Troops harassing Lumad school teachers, volunteers

Save Our Schools, a network composed of groups and individuals championing children’s right to education, criticized red-tagging of teachers of a Lumad school and targeting of volunteers. At least 345 Lumad families or around 1,688 individuals seeking refuge in the school. Save Our Schools
MANILA, Philippines (First published December 7, 11:36 p.m.) — A children's rights group decried military harassment of teachers of a Lumad school and targeting of volunteers in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
 
"After exposing military abuses, volunteers of Lumad schools are being targeted by the military by harassing them on ground and online, blocking them from going back to the [school], and spreading black propaganda about the school tagging them as 'schools and supporters of terrorist NPA,'" the Save Our Schools Network said in a statement Thursday.
 
SOS Network is composed of child rights advocates, organizations and various stakeholders that champion children’s right to education.
 
Lumad school Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc. raised alarm a week ago after the military blocked the entry of food and aid meant for hundreds of families who fled their homes due to militarization.
 
 
SOS Network said there are at least 345 Lumad families or around 1,688 individuals seeking refuge in the school. They evacuated since Nov. 26, 2017 due to militarization in their communities.
 
"These are the same communities that evacuated on September 1, 2015 for a year after the killing of leaders MAPASU chairperson Dionel Campos, Datu Juvello Sinzo and ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca," SOS said, referring to the three Lumads killed allegedly by the Bagani paramilitary group linked with the Armed Forces.
 
Concern over the food blockade reached social media with the hashtag #NoToFoodBlockade making it as one of the most talked about topics on Twitter last Saturday, December 2.
 
Since then the situation has worsened, according to SOS Network, as not only food was blocked from entry but Lumad locals as well.
 
"A student who needed treatment from the lowlands was blocked from returning to the evacuation twice - on November 30 and December 2. They also did not allow the entry of four Lumad students on December 1," it said.
 
"Meanwhile, teachers who needed to continue teaching at the Lumad schools in the evacuation site were blocked just because they are ALCADEV teachers."
 
Teachers from Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur or TRIFPSS, an advocacy group for indigenous people, who exited the community were also reportedly interrogated and photographed by the military. They were told to show IDs and cedulas should they want to enter again, SOS Network said.

Red-tagging

The military denied allegations of a food blockade last Sunday, December 3, a day after the issue trended on social media.
 
Captain Rodulfo Cordero Jr. of 401st Infantry Brigade in a statement said the military was just following orders by the local government to prohibit a "leftist group" from distributing relief goods directly to evacuees as aid should be coordinated with the local authorities first, Cebu City newspaper SunStar reported.
 
The 401st IB told Philstar.com on Friday, December 8, that there were also safety concerns after an encounter with NPA rebels last November 28. There were also reports of armed individuals who mixed in with the evacuees, it added.
 
The 401st IB said it directed the group who wanted to distribute relief goods last December 1 to coordinate with local social welfare officials, especially as there were children with them.
 
"[M]ay mga kasama silang bata kaya ang alam namin di sila binigyan clearance ng LGU dahil sa delikado ang sitwasyon dahil sa nangyaring encounter sa bundok nung [November] 28 at may report kami na may mga armadong humalo sa mga bakwit."
 
SOS, however, slammed the 401st IB over the tagging of Lumad organizations as being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army. 
 
A Facebook post by the 401st IB warned the public against ALCADEV and TRIFPSS, claiming that they teach children to rebel against the government.
 
"Several papers were also found in Diatagon, Lianga bearing the words 'TRIFPSS, ALCADEV SCHOOLS AND SUPPORTERS OF TERRORIST NPA' on December 5. The picture on the paper is the same picture the Facebook account of the 401st IB posted." 
 
 
The group said the military is claiming that the evacuation was part of the so-called "Taktikang Bakwit" of the NPA which aims "to disrupt and to force the military to stop its security operations." 
 
The child rights group raised that the military's red-tagging tarnishes the integrity of the schools and organizations and endangers the life of the volunteers, especially as President Rodrigo Duterte declared the CPP-NPA as terrorist groups.
 
"They tagged the schools communists so they can justify the atrocities they are doing to them - tactics done by fascists to quell those who tell the truth."
 
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