Duterte threatens to bomb lumad schools

The Philippine Star
Duterte threatens to bomb lumad schools

President Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools which he believed was being used by communist militants to indoctrinate young tribe members. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte has threatened to bomb lumad schools that have proliferated mostly in the hinterlands of Mindanao and are believed to be run by communists to influence the youth to rebel against the government.

Sabihin ko diyan sa mga lumad ngayon, umalis kayo diyan. Bobombahan ko ’yan. Isali ko ’yang mga istruktura ninyo (I’ll tell the lumads now to leave those areas. I’ll bomb them. I’ll include their structures),” Duterte said in a press conference following his second State of the Nation Address last Monday.

The President lamented that communist guerrillas are operating the lumad schools without being duly accredited by the Department of Education (DepEd).

“All the money for those social ameliorations, I’ll use them in… Anyway, those bridges would be destroyed; the schools would be burned. The schools of the lumads, they’re operating without the Department of Education’s permit,” he said in Filipino. 

Duterte stressed that lumad schools actually teach subversion and communism instead of what should be taught in the regular educational curriculum prescribed by the DepEd.

The President said he would use the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the Philippine Air Force, to bomb the lumad schools. 

The Chief Executive also said the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will have to reconfigure on how to fight the insurgency, as well as criminality.

“So this time, you do it to me, do it to my police and my Army, they will do it to you,” Duterte said, adding he would also involve the PNP in the fight against insurgency.

“Back to the drawing board ’yan lahat sila, pati na ang Army (all of them, including the Army). But at least, we got the experience on how to fight on a terrorist urban warfare,” he said.

‘Lowest of low’

Following his threat to bomb indigenous peoples’ schools, Duterte is facing criticism from the insurgents.

In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) dubbed the President as the “lowest of the low.”

“You are a madman with bombs. You are a bully. An arrogant street thug intoxicated with power. But you only pick on the weak, the small and the oppressed. You bomb their homes, shell their communities and expect them to bow to your power. You exercise power but only against the powerless,” the CPP said.

“But you are a weakling when faced with the powerful. You cannot even keep your word to stop the mining companies that poison and plunder the land. The NPA has done much more than you in defending the country’s patrimony.”

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary-general Eule Rico Bonganay said the President’s remark poses a serious threat to schools in Mindanao.

“What could be worse than what can be taken as an open command from the Chief Executive with sheer impunity on the genocide of our indigenous people?” Bonganay asked.

“Attacks on lumad schools in Mindanao did not falter, it even intensified, especially when President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao,” he added.

Citing documentation of military occupation of lumad schools, Bonganay said it has been a practice of the AFP to tag schools critical against mining as “training ground” of communist rebels.

“It’s even more alarming because President Duterte is echoing the same baseless accusation and maligning our lumad schools. For sure, the President’s statement will embolden attacks in lumad communities by the elements of the AFP and perpetrate further harassments and indiscriminately bomb lumad communities in Mindanao,” he said.

The DepEd declined to comment on the President’s remarks despite earlier calls of Education Secretary Leonor Briones to keep schools as zones of peace.

National Youth Commission chair Aiza Seguerra said they would issue a statement regarding the matter.

Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon warned Duterte against targeting the destruction of civilian structures.

“He should be reminded that targeting the destruction of civilian structures such as schools are prohibited by the universally accepted standards of international humanitarian law,” Gascon said.

Protection, ‘correct education’

Malacañang, however, justified Duterte’s tough talk, saying it is needed to protect the youth and to ensure that they are getting the “correct education.” 

“The President notes that certain lumad or indigenous schools are being used to foment rebellion against the government. (President Duterte) warns them in the strongest terms to discontinue these actions; persistence will warrant appropriate government action,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said. 

“The President highlights the need to…instill love of country and respect for our laws among others, and not rebellion,” he added.

The Duterte administration has canceled peace talks with the leftists after the CPP ordered the NPA to launch attacks on government troops enforcing martial law in Mindanao.  

The President was also angered by the ambush of a Presidential Security Group convoy in Arakan, North Cotabato last week, which left one militiaman dead and five government troopers injured. – With Alexis Romero

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