Tribal schools suspend classes after lumad boy’s murder

At least four tribal schools in Talaingod, Davao del Norte have suspended classes since last week for fear of more attacks following the January 17 killing of a teenaged lumad student by a member of the military-backed Alamara militia.

The Save Our Schools Network reported Tuesday that the teachers and students of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center schools in Sitios Laslasakan, Nalubas and Panga-an in Barangay Palma Gil, and Sitio Pongpong in Barangay Dagohoy had decided to stay away since the killing of Alibando Tingkas.

Tingkas, 15, his brother Romy, 30, and their uncle, Idol Maas, 25, were walking home when they were fired on by Alamara member Joven Salangani.

The Grade 3 Manobo student died from two shots to the chest. His brother and uncle were wounded but survived by jumping off a cliff.

The SOS Network, which has been campaigning for an end to the attacks and occupation of tribal schools by the military and militias, said th suspension of classes in Talaingod has affectd 243 students.

ang-angoy(Left photo – Alamara member Rodel ‘Ang-angoy’ Butanlog taken by a Salugpongan Center teacher)

The military openly accuses tribal schools like those run by Salugpongan and lumad communities that resist the incursion of extractive industries such as mining, logging and plantation agriculture into their ancestral lands of supporting communist rebels.

The occupation of these schools and communities, as well as threats, harassment and killings of lumad have time and again triggered mass evacuations.

Early last year, 700 Manobo from Talaingod fled to Davao City after their schools and villages were occupied by soldiers and militiamen.

And in Surigao del Sur, some 3,000 lumad remain at the sports center in the provincial capital Tandag City following the September 1 murders of Emerito Samarca, administrator of the award-winning Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo, by the Magahat militia.

The military insists it has nothing to do with the militias, although, in the case of the Lianga murders, it has acknowledged that an Army unit was nearby but did nothing to stop the executions of Campos and Sinzo in front of hundreds of Manobo, including children.

Several quarters, including Surigao del Sur officials led by Governor Johnny Pimentel, have also debunked the military’s denials, saying it is the Army that created, armed and trained the militias.

In the case of Tingkas’ killing, the military claimed it was retaliation for the rebels’ killing of a lumad.

But the SOS Network said that from mid-December to early this month, teachers and students of Salugpongan schools were already being threatened by Alamara member Rodel “Ang-angoy” Butanlog.

And Ronie Garcia, basic education principal of the Salugpongan schools, said as recently as Saturday, an Alamara member warned teachers in Sitio Tibucag that thy and their students “will be massacred” because a militiaman had been killed. “It is sad that this is happening. But the community and the teachers have to protect the children. The Alamara has gotten bolder,” Garcia said of the most recent class suspensions.

“We believe that no child or lumad community should suffer from such terror. The Alamara and the (military’s) presence hampers the dreams of every lumad in Talaingod and any other placesto achieve education, literacy and protection of the indigenous culture and social practices and their right to ancestral land and right to self-determination,” he said.

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