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Fierce attacks on lumad schools under Duterte’s first year

Almost one year into the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, we thought change had come for the Lumads who finally went home from the sanctuary of UCCP Haran to their communities holding on Duterte’s promise of peace.

But the lumads and their children still encounter the same threats that drove them out in the past three years.  The paramilitary Alamara has constantly harassed teachers and students in Talaingod and Alamara.  Soldiers have encamped in the schools of Salugpongan Community Learning Center and MISFI Academy all across Davao Region.

There have been 39 of these cases under Duterte’s first year in the presidency from July 1 up to the present.

Meanwhile, a senior school teacher, Amelia Pond of Salugpongan, was arrested last August and is facing trumped up charges of murder.

But what is worse is the threats have been deadly. More recently in Nasilaban, Talaingod, an Alamara member named Rodel ‘Ang-angoy’ Butanlog threatened Salugpongan teacher Ramel Miguel and fired his gun at random that grazed a grade 7 student’s private part.    Butanlog also threatened to burn the school.

Kapalong, around 100 Misfi Academy students are forced to leave the community after the Alamara threatened to kill the parents if they continue to send their children to the school.   Alamara members warned they would enforce the closure of the school.

The threats are real, considering that four community leaders who have supported the lumad schools are shot dead since February after Duterte momentarily cancelled the peace talks with the NDF and the Armed Forces declared an all-out war in the countryside.

In the recent national assembly of Save Our Schools, there have been 87 reported cases of attacks on schools in Mindanao from July 2016 to March 2017.

Nothing has changed for the Lumad schools and the school children.  Teachers are vilified and placed under surveillance. Students and parents are warned by soldiers not to attend these schools.  Some schools are forced to close due to the threats.  Communities are also pondering of evacuating again back to Haran.

Nothing has changed in the government, as Duterte speaks of war, calling his soldiers to “flatten the hills” where Lumads live.  He claims 75% of the New People’s Army are lumads, implying they are targets of the all-out war.

A year into his presidency, may we remind Duterte of his commitment and duty: to bring a just peace to the Lumad communities in Mindanao, and protect the Lumad children’s right to education.