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DepEd: Due process followed in lumad schools closure

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Due process was observed in the decision to close down private schools catering to children from indigenous communities in Davao region, according to the Department of Education (DepEd).

In a statement released this week, the DepEd defended the decision of its regional office in Davao to permanently shut down the 54 private schools operated by Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.

The agency assured the public that its actions are guided by the interest of protecting children, noting that most of those enrolled in the affected schools have already been transferred to public schools near where they live.

“The DepEd is mandated to regulate the establishment and recognition of private schools in the basic education level, which proceed from both the Constitution and relevant statutes,” the statement read.

“The operation of schools in basic education requires the prior authorization by the DepEd, which, for private schools, is expressed by way of permit or recognition,” it added.

In the case of Salugpongan, the DepEd said it could not disregard the report of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who alleged that some students are being taught to dismantle and assemble firearms and are being controlled by school administrators.

“The report by no less than the National Security Adviser is very serious,” the DepEd said, noting that Education Secretary Leonor Briones has exercised her prerogative in July to suspend the school’s operations pending the results of the investigation.

“The DepEd emphasizes that the suspension directed by the secretary is not in the nature of a penalty. It was a precautionary measure for the protection of the students, pending the investigation and resolution of the matter by the regional office,” it added.

In September, the DepEd regional office in Davao has approved the recommendation of the fact-finding committee to permanently close the schools operated by Salugpongan.

The decision was criticized by various groups, which accused Esperon and the military of fabricating allegations against the school.

“We are enraged over the decision of DepEd Region 11 to permanently shut down the lumad community schools based on the malicious and false claims of the military, disregarding the fact that such move is tantamount to disenfranchisement of thousands of  children to their right to education,” children’s rights and welfare group Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said in a statement.

“Contrary to what the DepEd is trying hard to portray, the order is baseless, partial and reeks of ill-motive. It is a clear betrayal of the lumad’s hope for education,” it added.

The SOS Network alleged that the fact-finding team created by the DepEd regional office has failed to visit any of the schools that it permanently closed, noting that they only set foot in Nasilaban, Talaingod but did not proceed to the schools.


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