Lumad schools suspended over 'recycled lies, unverified reports,' Karapatan says
Students of a Salugpongan school hold class in a church in Davao City.
Save Our Schools release, file

Lumad schools suspended over 'recycled lies, unverified reports,' Karapatan says

(Philstar.com) - July 16, 2019 - 12:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday blamed National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. for the suspension order against 55 Lumad schools in the Davao region that he claims teach "left-leaning" ideologies.

The Department of Education suspension order—initially reported as a closure order— against schools of the Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center was criticized over the weekend, with activist groups saying it was based on unverified allegations of rebel recruitment.

The schools have been issued a show-cause order for them to address the allegations.

The Lumad schools were originally set up to serve indigenous peoples' communities in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas—places that may be beyond the reach of government services.

"The Department of Education's order for the closure of (the) Lumad schools stems from the same false, unverified and malicious reports," Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said. She said the allegations were "like that of the proscription petition by the [Department of Justice] that included hundreds of individuals and aliases not vetted."

According to reports, the suspension order was issued based on a report by Esperon that the schools were teaching students to rebel against the government, an allegation that President Rodrigo Duterte also made in 2017, when he threatened to bomb Lumad schools.

"This government continuously shows us its propensity for condemning people and communities on the basis of 'lists' and unverified reports," Palabay said, claiming the information used to justify the school closures was "fed" by the military, police, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

"Esperon's accusations are recycled lies by militarist hawks who have derided schools that genuinely catered to members of indigenous communities by being pioneers in developing a curriculum that is truly appropriate and responsive to the needs of the community," Palabay also said.

RELATED: Belgian NGO: ALCADEV funding for growing greens, not raising Reds

SPARK: DepEd should see Lumad schools as partners

In a separate statement, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan—a group that is not affiliated with the national democratic activist movement—said it condemns the DepEd order, stressing the move was based on unfounded allegations.

"Instead of treating Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers as partners in the noble deed of educating the marginalized youth in far-flung communities, it is the DepEd that is easing them out when they have no personnel and facilities in these communities—miserably failing in their mandate despite the increase of allocation from the national budget," the group also said.

"The closure of Lumad schools also contradicts Duterte's whole-of-nation approach in addressing the decades-long insurgency issue. Don't they know that it is precisely the lack of social services that incites the poor to bear arms against an elitist, corrupt and incompetent government?" SPARK also said.

"Whole-of-nation" refers to the Duterte administration's strategy against the communist insurgency that has been running since the New People's Army was organized in 1969.

According to Executive Order No. 70, the "whole of nation" approach "addresses the root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, and other armed conflicts and threat by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government, facilitating societal inclusivity, and ensuring active participants of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of peace agenda."

RELATED: DepEd urges Lumad school to adhere to operating permit's location restrictions

Briones: Schools do not meet DepEd requirements

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in an interview on ANC on Monday, said the schools' operations have been suspended because they do not have permits to operate.

She said only 11 of the schools have applied for a new permit to operate for this year.

"Last year, none of the 55 were issued permits to operate because they could not comply with the requirements," she said. Among the requirements, she said, were having legally titled land for the school campus and having enough teachers.

"We have our own regulations, and we have been issuing permits for many private schools," she said, adding DepEd has already built schools in the areas that the Lumad schools serve, so students can instead go to those.

She said Esperon's report was just the latest in allegations against the Lumad schools.

"We have been receiving complaints from various groups, even from the local government and the peace and order council of Davao City asking us to close the schools," she said on ANC.

She said the decision on whether to do that or not is with the regional office. — Jonathan de Santos with The STAR/Artemio Dumlao in Baguio City

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