On the Universal Children’s Day, the Save Our Schools Network Southern Mindanao reiterates its call for education officials to act now to protect the Lumad schools in Mindanao under attacks.
On this day, we call out the Department of Education to turn their words into action.
The DepEd announced that they are committed to implement DepEd Order 44, series of 2005 or the Declaration of Schools as Zones of Peace. They have also campaigned for the government to sign the Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict.
But this is far from what is happening in Lumad schools since June. There are 39 Lumad schools in Mindanao that have been forcibly closed due to militarization. More than 2,200 students and teachers have been harassed by soldiers and paramilitary. Hundreds hold class in “bakwit schools” in sanctuaries hosted by schools and churches. One teenage students was killed in Talaingod. Several Lumad schools face delay on the release of their permit to operate despite submitting requirements on time.
These incidents need the attention of DepEd. Yet after several dialogues, letters and protest actions we made, they have failed to take action or raise recommendations to hold the military accountable to the violations of their own memorandum.
Perhaps it is because DepEd issued a contrasting memorandum through Memo 221 series of 2013 that institutionalized military presence for “protection of children”.
In truth, the military, through its implementation of its programs Oplan Bayanihan and now Oplan Kapayapaan, is the one causing the violations on the rights of the children and protection of schools from attacks. And we have to hold DepEd accountable for this.
We challenge Secretary Leonor Briones, who prides herself as an advocate for the education of indigenous peoples, to take action on the attacks on schools.
We call on Briones to probe the attacks on schools, issue calls for the stop of military operations and pullout of military and paramilitaries from schools.
We also ask DepEd to grant the permit to operate and status of recognition for Lumad schools, so that these more than 500 Lumad students can go back to their communities and resume their schooling without any more interference from the AFP and the paramilitary groups.
We join the 300 Lumad students, teachers and parents now staging a protest camp in front of DepEd Central Office in Manila, to call on Briones to have an opportunity for a dialogue, and see the plight of the Lumad students and act on their demands.
We call for the end of militarization in Lumad communities, for the protection of Lumad students and schools.