Administrators of Salugpongan Community Learning Center and Misfi Academy arrived at Manila on July 7 to personally appeal to government officials to intervene and stop the continuing military attacks on their schools.
The contingent comprised of Salugpongan Basic Education Principal Ronnie Garcia, Misfi Academy Head Teacher Ricky Balilid and Executive Director Percinita Sanchez, who were accompanied by conveners of the SOS National Network to a dialogue with Department of Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali at the DepEd National Office in .
The administrators repeated their appeal for DepEd to order the pullout of the military in their school communities in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
“We are very disappointed that until now we cannot start our classes because of the continued military presence and attacks in our schools and communities,” Garcia said.
He also complained that the DepEd provincial offices are using bureaucratic requirement s such as the permit to operate (PTO) when the schools are already recognized as partners of DepEd in the Indigenous Peoples Education Program.
“We are appealing to the education department to appreciate and give gratitude to the contribution of our schools in providing free education to far-flung communities and should not allow itself to be used by the AFP in committing grave child rights violation,” said Sanchez, executive director of MISFI Academy.
The group also urged the DepEd to perform its responsibility to protect schoolchildren by repealing their Memorandum 221 which permits the military presence and activities in schools, as they said this violates international rules that prohibit armed men in public places such as schools for placing these institutions in harm’s way.
“5,000 students in our schools are affected by these repression from the DepEd,” said Balilid. “These schools were built by the lumads for their children, as we serve these communities that the government has neglected and forgotten and now they wanted it to be closed. Now, even the children and we teachers are afraid because of the AFP and the paramilitary roaming in our schools.”
The administrators also joined the SOS in a demonstration held outside the DepEd office to call public attention to their demands.