Students of a Salugpongan school hold class in a church in Davao City.
Save Our Schools release, File
CHR: Education of Lumad students shouldn’t be compromised despite gov’t allegations
( - July 18, 2019 - 4:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The allegation that the Lumad schools—whose operations were suspended by the Education department—are teaching students to rebel against the government needs substantial evidence and due process, the Commission on Human Rights said Thursday.

The Department of Education issued a suspension order against schools of the Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center. It based its order on a report by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon alleging the schools teach “left-leaning” ideologies to students.

Jacqueline De Guia, CHR spokesperson, urged DepEd to reassess its decision and seek a dialogue with the Lumads.

“While we recognize the need to address security issues, the allegation that the said Lumad schools are training ground for ‘rebels’ still require substantial pieces of evidence and due process,” De Guia said, noting the use of blanket labels can endanger the safety of communities and make them vulnerable to attacks and harassment.

She also stressed the children’s right to education should not be compromised in the face of such assertions from the government.

“Suspension of the Lumad schools’ operations may fall short as a solution to a complex issue that requires a more comprehensive assessment other than from a security perspective. The challenge now for the government is to strike a balance in the face of equally important interests,” De Guia said.

She added: “Their struggle for the recognition of IP rights and recurring grievances must be addressed instead of shrinking avenues for their empowerment. Utmost consideration must always be given to the welfare of IPs who have already suffered numerous injustices in their pursuit of self-determination.”

Last January, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11188 or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict law. This law aims to institutionalize protection and humanitarian assistance to children trapped in armed conflict areas.

DepEd: Students will be admitted in nearby schools

De Guia said the issue also brings into light the need for DepEd to assess if there are enough schools near Lumad communities.

“Government must contemplate long-term solutions to the realities being faced by Lumad children, who may actually be innocent but are targeted by rebel groups,” she said.

But DepEd assured that the students of these schools in Mindanao would be admitted in nearby public schools.

“Part of the order issued by our OIC director and part of our directive also is to ensure that the students be accommodated in all nearby DepEd schools,” Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said.

Nepomuceno said the suspension of the operation of the Lumad schools is not yet the agency’s final decision as DepEd is still waiting for their compliance to the show cause order.

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said the department is “accountable and vulnerable if we don’t act on this very serious charge.”

Rights group Karapatan said the suspension order stemmed from the “same false, unverified and malicious reports." 

"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 said.

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