A people’s initiative in peril

(Commentary from SOS advocate Margarita Valle on the closure of the MISFI Academy in Brgy. White Culaman, Kitaotao in Bukidnon Province. This article originally appeared on SunStar Davao October 25, 2015)

NOW that the Indigenous Peoples are taking the initiative to improve their lot, government authorities are questioning and suspicious of their good deeds. But many have known the reason why. Dirty politics is again at play, and the scrupulous will always want to destroy genuine efforts for the uplift of the lot of the poor, for selfish purposes.

Very recently, news about the destruction of part of the property of the Lumad school in barangay Kitaotao, Bukidnon filtered into the consciousness of the support groups, sending chills of apprehension on the safety of the children and their teachers who are reportedly driven out of their school by members of the paramilitary with threats against their person.

Why are these people bent on making life miserable for the hapless victims of harassment among teachers, children and their parents in the community? What is their intent? Are these people not aware that by doing so, they are making a great disservice to their own people and their community life?

It would appear that the paramilitary and their military cohorts will stop at nothing until they have taken over the facility of said lumad school. But why? Why are they destroying the future of their children who are expected to lead their community in the future?

It should be recalled that the NGOs who had been supporting the aspiration of the Lumads for a school that would bring education to their children, had been working with government agencies and education authorities since day one that putting up these schools had been thought of.

The Indigenous People’s (IPs) who have been living on the fringes of society because government services had been scarce in trickling down to their communities, have found an ally among well-meaning groups in the fulfilment of their dreams, for several years now.
And now they are being threatened anew, their new-found freedom to self-determination is being curtailed because of the whimsical, unreasonable and unfounded suspicious being hurled against their efforts.

Is it because those in authority believe that the Lumads are incapable of raising their standards to a level where they are already critical of their dire existence, and thus, they are trying to belittle these efforts by taunting them and pulling them down?

Is it not the height of hypocrisy among so-called education authorities to pretend that they are doing their job of bringing education closer to the people when they are actually relying on well-meaning civil organizations or non-government organizations who are doing their job for them?

For the record, Department of Education has not been doing its job and has miserably failed in responding to the needs of the IPs who are living in hinterlands, and for several years, it has been riding on the convenience brought about by these NGOs who have been doing the difficult job of bringing the schools to the IP children, so that these children do not have to endanger their lives in crossing rivers and walking kilometers upon kilometers just to be able to learn the ABCs.

And like Pontius Pilate, these education authorities wash their hands and look away when the NGOs are being vilified and harassed together with the children and their teachers among Lumad schools.

As if they did not know that these schools are legitimate. As if the Lumad schools merely sprouted like mushrooms after a night’s rainfall, while they were blissfully asleep.