Lumad school teachers ready for opening of classes

Teachers of heavily militarized IP community schools in Southern Mindanao are ready for the start of school year 2016 despite which may face the last wave of military operation of the Aquino administration’s Oplan Bayanihan.

According to the spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network, Rius Valle, about 169 teachers were sent off to 67 IP schools from Salugpongan Community Learning Center and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) institutions in Southern Mindanao region this week and also in some parts of neighboring regions this week. Continue reading Lumad school teachers ready for opening of classes

SOS Network condemns killing of 15-year old lumad student in Talaingod

The Save Our Schools Network condemns in strongest terms the killing of a 15-year old Salugpongan student in Talaingod, Davao del Norte on Sunday reportedly committed by the paramilitary Alamara.

Based on reports from the community, Alibando Tingkas, 15 years old, a grade 3 student of Salugpongan School in Talaingod was reportedly killed in Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod.

“We are enraged and saddened by this incident. The paramilitary group and their military cohorts will not stop from attacking and even killing lumads in the name of their counter-insurgency operations, even children are not spared anymore” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of the SOS Network in Southern Mindanao

Continue reading SOS Network condemns killing of 15-year old lumad student in Talaingod

On International Human Rights Day, our call to Aquino: Stop the Attacks on Lumad Schools, Revoke Dep-Ed Memo 221

The Save our Schools Network – an alliance of different child’s rights advocates, people’s organization, religious and academic institutions, and individuals – calls the government to act as many of the schools in Lumad communities were either closed or destroyed. As one of the lead convenors of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, SOS reiterates the call for the Aquino administration to put a stop to the attacks on lumad schools and communities.

According to Rius Valle, SOS Network spokesperson for Mindanao, there are 22 out of 162 lumad schools in Mindanao that were closed or classes were suspended due to military harassment and encampment of thier schools and communities. Military operations and encampment has resulted to 6,000 lumads affected of forcible evacuation and displacement from September to November 2015 alone.

“Despite of the concern and sympathy that the killing of the executive director of a lumad school and the lumad leaders got from the public, there is no let-up in the military operations for the closure of lumad schools. The military not only continued but has become more bold in their attacks against lumad community and people,“ said Valle.

Valle added that after the September 1 massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, 18 lumad schools run by the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) were forcibly closed-down as 3,000 lumad evacuated in Tandag City.

In a report of the recently held International Fact-Finding Mission in Surigao del Sur dated November 9, 2015, it was stated that out of 18 schools affected, one (1) TRIFPSS school was totally scorched along with several houses, while two (2) were partially burned. A teachers’ cottage of ALCADEV was also burned down last November 10, 2015 in Barangay Padiay, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

In Southern Mindanao region, several lumad schools in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley were also burned down and forced to stop classed due to military encampment:

• Three (3) schools in Talaingod and Kapalong Davao del Norte were forced stop their classes in June this year and were forced to resume in an evacuation camp in Davao City;
• Another four (4) lumad schools have been subjected to different forms of military attacks from October to December;
• In mid-November two (2) lumad schools in different communities of Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod were forced to stop classes and evacuate the community due to the presence of paramilitary group Alamara;
• In Compostela, the Salugpongan School and their homes were abandoned by the Matigsalog tribe in Purok 4B, Barangay Mangayon due to the encampment of 66th Infantry Battalion in front of the school and along community houses.

Valle added that while the lumad leaders of Kitaotao, Bukidnon were in Manila for the Manilakbayan caravan protest from October to November, 24 students of their lumad school, Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School, were forced to flee as the school was was forcibly closed and was demolished by the village chief Felipe Cabugnason along with the 8th Infantry Battalion.

Valle also slammed the connivance of different government agencies and local government units with the military in perpetrating these attacks. He added that under the Aquino adminstration’s Oplan Bayanihan, several government agencies were used to suppress lumad schools.

Instead of supporting community-initiated lumad schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) complements Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Letter Directive 25 through the issuance of DepEd Memo 221, which allows and legitimizes military presence in schools and other public places.

Other agencies such as the National Commission on Indigenous People and the local government units also kowtow to the military in its implementation of counter-insurgency program by red-tagging the lumad schools and its teachers as well as the community leaders who head the schools.

Valle also reports that in Southern Midnanao, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) have been actively participating in military operations aside from complementing military psy-war tactics by providing conditional cash programs to lumad communities.

Valle said that the success of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao rest on the people who sympathized and supported the campaign of the lumad people to stop government attacks on their schools. Aside from donations received, Valles urged support groups to also push the government to revoke its counter-insurgency policies that affects the lumad people.

‘For the sake of the lumad children and the future of the lumad community, we urge those who were reached by our campaign to help rebuild lumad schools that were burned and forced to close down, actively call for the revocation of DepEd Memo 221 and campaign for a stop to military operations in lumad areas,’ said Valle.

Alamara, military blockade of Salugpongan foundation guests condemned

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Southern Mindanao network condemns the harassment of students, teachers, parents and visitors attending the Salugpongan’s 11th Founding Anniversary and Bwalawan Festival last September 28 to October 1, 2015 committed by the military and the Alamara.

Rius Valle, spokesperson of SOS network said that more than 300 students, teachers and PTCA members from existing Salugpongan Learning Centers in the region were harassed before entering Barangay Dagohoy, the venue of the foundation event.

“Soldiers together with ten (10) Alamara and tribal council leaders prohibited us from entering. We were anxious since some Alamara members were shouting at us and set up their bows, arrows, spears and bolos,” said Valle.

Valle said the tribal leaders headed by Lumansad Sibugan, supporters of Alamara, suspected they were bringing more Manobo people to the evacuation center in Haran, and insisted they have to pay “courtesy visit” to them for not informing them of the event.

Ronie Garcia, principal of the Salupgongan Learning Center Basic Education, refuted Sibugan’s claim as he said the school has been celebrating their anniversary for 11 years and in the past the Local Government Unit of Talaingod would even send its representative, but all of these change after the military arrived in 2013.

“I think this was never about courtesy. I think this is part of their plan to close down Salugpongan schools and threaten the students, teachers and the community as a whole to stop supporting Salugpongan” Garcia said.

Even after the celebration, the participants continued to be subject to harassments on October 1 when police stopped the vehicles from bringing the passengers home.

“When the participants were scheduled to go back to their respective campuses, suspected military agents together with the police (Kapalong Municipal Police Station) continued harassing us and issued absurd violations to our vehicles like driving without uniform, shoes, seatbelt and etc. One of our vehicles was impounded by the police after the driver failed to present a license which we think is just part of elaborative plan to discourage us in our support to IP schools” said Valle.

“We deplore these acts as this only proves that the military, LGUs, and police together with the paramilitary are desperate to close down IP schools as part of the counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino government,” Valle added.

“Their desperate actions however violates the lumads’ right to education and protection from the state. Their actions should be investigated by authorities,” he said.

The harassments did not stop the Manobo communities to celebrate the Salugpongan Foundation Day and Bwalawan Festival which included sports and musical programs.

“The successful event proved that the unity of the community – which also means ‘Salugpongan’- will overcome all barriers” said Ronie Garcia.

“In the 11 years of existence, they have now learned more how to defend their people and their land from encroaching corporate plunderers targeting Pantaron Range. The education they have acquired is an effective tool against destructive mining corporations and fascist attacks of the state, even more effective since the 1994 defense of their ancestral land against Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) logging firm” Garcia narrated.

The host community, Km 30 Barangay Dagohoy, expressed their appreciation for the school and is ready to protect their school.

“As Salugpongan leader Datu Guibang Apoga affirmed his stand to us, we will never abandoned the children, we will never abandoned the Lumads, and we will fight through spreading education” Garcia concluded.

Reply to President Aquino’s hand-washing on the recent Lumad killings

(Photo from Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command PR shows Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad being conferred a lumad tribute by lumads linked to the AFP)

(This is the statement of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao Region on President Benigno Aquino III’s response to the militarization and killings in Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon and other areas in Mindanao. You can visit their website at http://www.rmp-nmr.org/)

Instead of ordering an investigation, the president, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gives a careless statement when he said, “There is no campaign to kill anybody in this country. There is a campaign to go after everybody who commits crimes, regardless of who they are.”

His pronouncement is both a denial of what is going on, and at the same time an accusation targeted at the victims butchered by the government forces and supporting paramilitary minions.

While the public document of the government’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, dubbed “Bayanihan,” does not have a word on the killing rampage of the AFP, the president’s statement of full support and endorsement of the Investment Defense Forces – formally the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) and informally the paramilitary groups – is a standing order for the military’s guiding principle. At the core of the military’s actions is the interest to protect business firms – not the people it has sworn to protect.

If President Aquino says the campaign is to go after a person “who commits crimes” and dismisses the killings as justified actions of the military, then he is implying that those massacred and murdered by his forces were criminals. His statement is consistent with the military’s claim that they have been going after members of the New People’s Army, a statement that has been exposed to be a lie by the communities they have targeted and by the people who have seen their smears in the aftermath of their slaughter (see: Fact-Finding Mission Report on the Pangantucan Massacre).

The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) is an award-winning educational institution that has a special curriculum on agriculture, technical and vocational skills. One of the victims of the recent spate of killings is ALCADEV’s executive director, Emerito Samarca. Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) is an organization of the Manobo community in Surigao del Sur, which has been launching campaigns based on the stand of its members – the primary need to protect their ancestral domain from investments that have long been trying to get ahold of their resources. One of those killed was the head of this organization, and the other his cousin also a member of this group. They were serving the people. Yes, serving the people does not entail killing any of the citizens. Those serving the people were the ones killed. The government killed them.

Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM
Coordinator, RMP-NMR Inc

Statement: Attacks on Mindanao Lumad schools and communities intensify as Aquino’s military goes berserk for Oplan Bayanihan

The last year of the Benigno S. Aquino presidency has meant a bloodbath for indigenous peoples and for Lumad education, two months after his State of the Nation Address where he gloated of figures that have purportedly addressed classroom shortages and increased the quality of Philippine education.

Emerito ‘Tatay Emok’ Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc. (ALCADEV) and a convenor of the Save Our Schools Network was killed by government-backed indigenous paramilitary forces. His body was found lying in a pool of blood, with stab wounds on his neck, and his throat slit. While Dionel Campos, chairperson of MAPASU (Persevering Struggle for Future Manobo Generations), and his cousin Aurelio “Bello” Sinzo, were strafed dead before the terrified community of Han-ayan, Lianga town, Surigao del Sur province.

The paramilitary group Magahat— armed, controlled, and commanded by the 36th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army— burned down the school cooperative building and threatened to massacre the entire community if they would not leave the area two days before the killing of the Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo in the morning of September 1, 2015.

The dastardly crime which was perpetrated at dawn and later carried out in broad daylight, terrified the erstwhile peaceful Manobo school and community. As of this writing, the number of evacuees in Caraga has swelled to 2,000 individuals or 500 families coming from the municipalities of San Miguel and Lianga, with some 70 families still lost in nearby forests.

The Philippine military’s attack on ALCADEV using indigenous paramilitaries is by far the gravest and most vicious violation of indigenous peoples’ right to education and constitutes a wholesale violation of children’s rights. Moreover, as schools are an integral part of communities, the attack is an open declaration of the Philippine state’s war of annihilation against people’s organizations and communities resisting foreign largescale plunder of ancestral domains.

The 36th IB Philippine Army-Magahat rampage at the ALCADEV School shows that the Aquino government has dropped all pretenses of adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments. It also demonstrates the irrefutable crimes of the Philippine Army against indigenous children which the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and the Armed Conflict has continually glossed over, understated, or consistently concealed in its annual reports.

The Philippine government’s attacks on the ALCADEV School clearly shows its contempt towards self-determined development asserted by indigenous communities. Alternative Lumad schools are pushing for their own culturally-relevant pedagogy that liberates indigenous peoples from the yoke of institutionalized discrimination and corporate plunder of ancestral lands.

These Ethnocidal attacks on indigenous education, indigenous leaders and their staunch advocates and supporters are but the latest in a string of Aquino’s orders to tighten the noose on Lumad schools:
1.Since April of 2014 up to present, 25 Lumad schools and community schools were forced to halt operations for the entire month of June due to harassment by the AFP and sanctioned by the Department of Education (DepEd).
2.At least 84 cases of attacks on 57 community schools have displaced and disrupted the education of over 3,000 Lumad children.
3.Three (3) minors were brutally killed by the elements of 3rd Company of the 1st Special Forces Battalion under the ground commander Capt. Balatbat with Col. Nasser Lidasan as Battalion Commander on August 19, 2015 in Pangatukan town, Bukidnon province. They were part of 5 Manobo tribals strafed and killed on suspicion of being NPA combatants.
4.The schooling of Lumad children under the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur was disrupted when residents of Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur were displaced. The victims were killed by an armed group led by Hasmin and elements of the 36th IBPA.
5.A Lumad child was among 14 farmers in White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon who were illegally detained and arrested by elements of 8th IB ug 23rd IB headed by Nicolas Rivera and an official named Tocmo. All were accused as members of the New People’s Army in contrast to the fact that they are members of organizations Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Culaman ( NAMABAW) and Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Arakan (TIKULPA). The Army threatened to burn down the MISFI-run (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated) school which offers 7th and 8th grade education in Sitio Dao, Bukidnon.
6.Adding to these abuses is the ongoing mass evacuation of the Talaingod people in Davao City since April of this year due to intensified military operations and threats from the terrorist paramilitary group ALAMARA. Around 1, 000 individuals from San Fernando Bukidnon, Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte have sought sanctuary at UCCP Haran, Davao City. Learners from STTICLC in Talaingod have been holding their classes at the refugee camp since the evacuation started.

The Aquino government should be held accountable for all these violations. It is responsible for the formation and arming of the paramilitary groups, the paving the way for the enty of largescale destructive projects in the ancestral domains, the sowing of disunity among IPs, and the killings that have claimed the lives of many.
The Save Our Schools Network demands Justice for Samarca, Campos, Sinzo and all victims of human rights abuses! End all forms of attacks on schools and communities!

Prof. Mae Fe Templa, RSW, MSW
Convenor, Save Our Schools Network

Stop the killings in Mindanao

Government authorities are accountable for attacks on Lumad schools!

We, the Save Our Schools Network condemn in strongest possible terms the recent attacks on schools in Brgy. White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon and the killings of Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development), a lumad school in Surigao del Sur, and two (2) others, by members of MAGAHAT paramilitary forces yesterday, September 1 at the ALCADEV Compound in Km 16, Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The act of killing was also witnessed by teachers and students of ALCADEV who were roused from their dormitories about 4:00 in the morning.

WE DEMAND JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY! The continuing use of this paramilitary forces by the AFP in their counter-insurgency have gravely cost not just the children’s right to education, but also the lives of children, IP leaders, educators and human rights defenders not only in CARAGA and Southern Mindanao Region but all over Mindanao.

Further, the recent systematic attacks on MISFI Academy and a daycare center, and other human rights violation in Barangay White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon perpetrated by combined forces of 23rd and 8th Infantry Battalions have caused great alarm and displacement among indigenous people last August 25 to August 30, 2015.

We demand an immediate investigation on complaints of illegal arrests and detention of 14 people, forced surrender of nearly all male residents of Barangay White Culaman Sentro, destruction of school properties, threats of burning the school, and the use of about 20 students as human shield during military operation.

These shameless acts of the State Armed Forces puts the children and all of the civilians at risk, violating not just our own Philippine laws but also international covenants, the UNCRC, UDHR, Geneva Protocols and the like. The incessant attacks among indigenous peoples are becoming more vicious targeting even our most vulnerable and defenseless sectors as Oplan Bayanihan nears its end.

As the 2016 election is drawing near, we urge the congress, the senate and even the presidentiables to hear these complaints and act upon it. Thus, the pending call of our senators to conduct a senate inquiry regarding the cases of attacks on school should be realized.

We call on the prosecution of all violators of children’s rights and an end to this continuing impunity.

STOP military attacks on schools here in Mindanao!

DISBAND all paramilitary groups!!

JUSTICE for all victims of military atrocities!

dionel_emok

UN expert Chaloka Beyani urges action on Manobo evacuees

Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur (at the middle) stands beside Datu Tungig Mansimoy-at, a Manobo evacuee and tribal chieftain from Talaingod, Davao del Norte during the visit of human rights advocates in Manila last July 21. (photo from Karapatan)

 

Dr. Chaloka Beyani, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of the internally-displaced persons, recently made an official visit to the Philippines last July 21 to 31, including a visit to UCCP Haran in Davao City to talk with the Manobo evacuees. Prior to her visit to Davao, she met Manobo leader Datu Tungig Mansimoy-at from Salugpongan in Manila last July 21 where the tribal leader initially talked about their plight.

The rapporteur released an official statement which included the following excerpt on the Manobo communities, which ends with an urgent call to take concrete actions to protect the indigenous communities.


“It was striking to me that indigenous peoples have been particularly vulnerable to conflict-induced displacement in many regions, particularly in Mindanao. For example, I am concerned by the plight of some 700 indigenous peoples currently living in basic Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church run facilities in the city of Davao having been displaced from their ancestral homes for several months due to long-standing conflict between the government and the New People’s Army (NPA) in their region. I travelled to Davao to consult the national and local authorities and the indigenous peoples themselves on this situation. I heard from the AFP its assertion that it is seeking to protect the communities and provide services to them in conflict regions; however the displaced IPs made it clear that it is their presence and that of the paramilitary groups in their communities that continues to create anxiety amongst the indigenous communities. The community wishes to return to its lands but stressed to me that they will only feel safe to do so if the long-term militarization of their region comes to an end and they can return with guarantees of safety, dignity and protection. They described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP and harassment in the context of the on-going conflict between the AFP and the NPA. Schools have reportedly been closed and/or occupied by the AFP or Alamara, hampering the access to education of indigenous children. While tribal leaders informed me that they are not being detained against their will at the UCCP centre in Davao, as is evident by reports of their periodic return to their communities, their current situation is neither acceptable nor sustainable. It is essential to find a rapid and peaceful solution to their situation in full consultation with their legitimate leaders, with their voluntary and secure return to their ancestral lands being a high priority. I urge the Government, in consultation with indigenous peoples themselves, to give greater attention to addressing the causes of displacement whether it be due to the militarization of their areas or due to development projects.

This situation clearly demonstrates the massive and potentially irreversible impact of the on-going conflicts on displacement of such vulnerable communities who are often caught up in the conflict and suspected of involvement with armed groups. Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever. Indigenous peoples are poorly equipped to survive away from their ancestral lands and are therefore deeply affected by displacement. The needs of these vulnerable people must be assessed, with their full participation, so as to provide essential assistance for them, including durable solutions which are culturally sensitive and appropriate, when displacement has taken place. The displacement of such communities whose very lives and cultures are intimately entwined with their ancestral lands and environments must only be a matter of last resort. It is clear to me that existing legislation and institutions, including the exemplary Indigenous Peoples Rights Act cannot provide adequate protection from displacement unless fully implemented in practice. Specific provisions on the rights of indigenous peoples should be included in the IDP Law currently under consideration.”

The full text of Beyani’s statement can be found in the United Nation Human Rights website here.

 

Woman chieftain chastises Catamco

Watch this video as Matigsalug leader Bae Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, one of the few woman chieftain in Mindanao, chastises North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco in the aftermath of the police clash with her fellow lumads at the UCCP Haran.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnKKp-SpFWk

Bae Bibiayon, a leader of the Natulinan organization in Bukidnon, rebukes the Congresswoman for betraying their trust as a fellow lumad and insisted them to return back to their villages through police force.

The Congresswoman is also declared persona-non-grata the lumads for disrespecting their leaders and insulting the lumad children in a dialogue. See story here.

Below is the statement of the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon criticizing Catamco over the incidence.

The declaration of ‘pangayaw’ by a datu supported by Nancy Catamco is arrogant and fascist, and this is the message shown by the group of police, Alamara and civilian-wearing soldiers ordered by Catamco to disturb our shelter at UCCP Haran.

Their brutality and murderous intent were shown in their actions in our communities and once again here in Davao City.

We condemn the infiltration made by the group led by Catamco that disturbed our peaceful evacuation. They destroyed the gates of UCCP Haran, beat our families, dragged some of the UCCP pastors, and accused us as criminals.

What Catamco did is plain disturbance and disrespect to us lumads. He used the police and Alamara to forced us to go home but she and the notorious police and Alamara have failed in doing this.

The anger that Bae Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay expressed in front of Catamco yesterday is not even enough to show our anger towards this Congresswoman who claims to be an educated lumad but we witnessed her arrogance, disrespect and fakery.

Catamco should be investigated for her actions and her connections with the military. She should be held accountable for the troubles she made that resulted to the police brutality and dispersal at UCCP Haran.

Catamco’s threat that she will return to UCCP Haran poses a threat to the security of our families and to the Manbo community.