In the course of the outrage over the state of repression on International Human Rights Day, there is one cause for celebration — the dismissal of trumped up charges against Lumad school teacher Amelia B. Pond.
Pond, 65 years old and curriculum researcher for Salugpongan schools, was detained for 15 months on trumped up charges of murder before her eventual release last December 7, 2017.
The court’s dismissal of the case against her, as witnesses recanted their allegations, proves the falsity of charges filed against Pond.
Although we celebrate the dismissal of the trumped up case, this vindication does not diminish the anguish Pond went through for 15 months.
Last August 2016, the CIDG forcibly arrested Pond when she attended an assembly of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in Cebu. CIDG operatives presented falsified IDs and used an alias warrant under the name of Adelfa Toledo, an alleged NPA leader wanted for murder, to justify Pond’s arrest.
While in detention, Pond had to be placed in hospital arrest when she underwent surgery on her spine. Against doctor’s orders, she was forcibly transferred back to Tagum jail without humanitarian consideration for her delicate state of recuperation.
The struggle of Teacher Amelia Pond may end in a positive note but the military’s attacks on schools and teachers have continued and escalated. Lumad schools are vilified through red baiting while teachers and students are harassed and attacked. Lumad communities are also either made to starve after food blockades imposed by the military, or they are destroyed by aerial bombardments.
On top of these, the military’s scheme to extend Martial Law in Mindanao, compounded by Pres. Duterte’s threats against Lumad schools and accusations alleging organizations as “legal fronts” suggests that state terrorism will continue to attack and endanger Lumad schools and their advocates.
The victory of Teacher Pond against the State’s political persecution is bittersweet. Despite the injustice of her arrest, her release emboldens advocates for Lumad children’s rights. In the end, our dedication and unity, and our struggle for truth and justice will prevail over lies and vicious State repression.