IP education woes motivate teachers to volunteer

DAVAO CITY – Under the shade of a mango tree, Efren Ledon, 22, and six other new applicants of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incoporated (Misfi) Academy, interpreted the nationalist song “Bayan Ko” (My Homeland) during the belated graduation ceremony of IP pupils from Davao del Norte.

“When I saw the children here, I was touched. I am inspired to teach them,” said Ledon.

Ledon, still on the third year of his Elementary Education course in college, said “these children in far flung areas are what Misfi is all about.”

“It is the government’s responsibility to go to them and teach them. The children and their education should be the priority,” he said.

The mango tree inside the lawn area of the Haran House compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also shades the makeshift earth stage and seats of the pupils, their parents, school administrators and visitors.

Some pupils proudly wore their school uniforms while their parents wore their best dresses.

Mothers in their indigenous garbs marched with their bare feet, while nursing children clung to their waists, sucking at their bosoms.

The pupils and their parents lined up in pairs for the entrance march, as the usual graduation march was played and participants in the ground were beaming.

The compound is more than a hundred kilometers away from the hometown of the Manobos in Sitio Muling, Barangay Gupitan, Davao del Norte.

“We were supposed to do this in Sitio Patil but the Alamara (IP paramilitary forces) prevented us from doing this,” said Datu Mintroso Malibato, the leader of the Manobo group Karadyawan.

Malibato said the students, as well as residents, had to travel secretly for two nights through the Mountains of Bukidnon to get to Davao City.

“The Alamara wouldn’t allow the teachers to go to the schools anymore. They threaten them, short of inflicting physical harm on them,” said Malibato.

The Army unit stationed in the area have repeatedly denied the presence of the Alamara, but reports said they have trained and armed residents as members of the Cafgu (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit).

Karadyawan said the Alamara and Cafgu members are the same.

Karadyawan and support groups have observed the re-emergence of the Alamara when Army units began counter-insurgency operations in the area.

Residents decried the presence of the Alamara, citing its history of criminal notoriety.

Karadyawan previously warned that the insurgency operations would only target civilians such as them and not communist guerrillas of the New People’s Army.

“Now, they have their eyes set on the schools which they accuse as structures built by the NPA,” said Malibato.

He said the Alamara sees their water system, crop drier, corn mill and other improvements as “courtesy of the NPA.”

Sitio Muling is two days on foot and teachers had to pass 42 river-crossings to arrive at the school.

Milagros Tan, Misfi administrator said they are about to open 14 more schools.

“The requirements set by the education department  are so tedious but we have to comply,” she said.

She slammed the threat of Alamara in Kapalong that has led to a de facto closure of the school.

“About 200 children were not able to resume their classes in the scheduled school opening because of this, but the government has not done its job to stop the right of these children to be educated,” she said.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network has expressed “concern” on the safety of the students and teaches of IP schools as “they are continuously being subjected to attacks.”

“Even the local government and the police have failed to stop the attacks and secure the schools,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of the SOS Network.

Valle said that the office of IP School Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development, Inc. (ALCADEV) was “ransacked and vandalized” in Surigao del Sur.

Meanwhile, Valle said the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center, Incorporated (STTILCI) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, was recommended a “closure order” by the Department of Education Division of Davao del Norte.

“These are all instigated by the government’s insurgency campaign and civilians and even schools have become their targets,” he said.

Army officials have in several interviews denied the accusations.

STTILCI administrators report that even with the “attacks” over 70 volunteered to teach in their schools.

At the moving-up ceremony, several groups also gave their messages of support for Misfi Academy.

Moro teachers from the Misfi Academy in Carmen, North Cotabato also came to sing a song in their native tongue which they said meant “go on, press on amidst the challenges.”

A protestant pastor said “it must be the will of God that your schools continue to serve as we see new teachers volunteering.”

The small gathering in the Haran House was simple but for Ledon “it is one of their proudest moments.”


Photo by: Ace Morandante(davaotoday.com)

Salugpongan, Misfi heads in Manila to raise complaints to government

Administrators of Salugpongan Community Learning Center and Misfi Academy arrived at Manila on July 7 to personally appeal to government officials to intervene and stop the continuing military attacks on their schools.

The contingent comprised of Salugpongan Basic Education Principal Ronnie Garcia, Misfi Academy Head Teacher Ricky Balilid and Executive Director Percinita Sanchez, who were accompanied by conveners of the SOS National Network to a dialogue with Department of Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali at the DepEd National Office in .

The administrators repeated their appeal for DepEd to order the pullout of the military in their school communities in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

“We are very disappointed that until now we cannot start our classes because of the continued military presence and attacks in our schools and communities,” Garcia said.

He also complained that the DepEd provincial offices are using bureaucratic requirement s such as the permit to operate (PTO) when the schools are already recognized as partners of DepEd in the Indigenous Peoples Education Program.

“We are appealing to the education department to appreciate and give gratitude to the contribution of our schools in providing free education to far-flung communities and should not allow itself to be used by the AFP in committing grave child rights violation,” said Sanchez, executive director of MISFI Academy.

The group also urged the DepEd to perform its responsibility to protect schoolchildren by repealing their Memorandum 221 which permits the military presence and activities in schools, as they said this violates international rules that prohibit armed men in public places such as schools for placing these institutions in harm’s way.

“5,000 students in our schools are affected by these repression from the DepEd,” said Balilid. “These schools were built by the lumads for their children, as we serve these communities that the government has neglected and forgotten and now they wanted it to be closed. Now, even the children and we teachers are afraid because of the AFP and the paramilitary roaming in our schools.”

The administrators also joined the SOS in a demonstration held outside the DepEd office to call public attention to their demands.

Lumads decry delisting threats from 4Ps

Lumad families complained that soldiers threatened them of being delisted from the government’s 4Ps cash assistance program if they continue sending their children to MISFI Academy and Salugpongan Community Learning Center (STTICLC).

The Save Our Schools Network said this incident happened in Barangay Taytayan, Cateel, Davao Oriental in June 23 committed by two army sergeants named Acmad and Itaw from the 67th Infantry Battalion. “The soldiers reportedly said that anyone who enrolls at Salugpongan School this school year will have their 4Ps cash assistance cut off, or they will be delisted from payment,” said SOS spokesperson Rius Valle.

The 4 Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a government program that shells out monthly allowances for families with children in school with the requirement that children maintain grades in school.

Administators from the STTICLC called on DSWD to investigate the matter as they urged the military to stop meddling in civilian lives and children’s education.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command public information officer Captain Albero Caber denied their troops made such statements to parents and children. But Valle said “Their statements are far from what is happening in the ground.” Valle said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region XI also clarified that the agency would delist beneficiaries if they fail to meet requirements or if they voluntarily withdraw from the program.

The officer in charge of the regions 4Ps, Margie Cabido, was quoted by news reports saying only beneficiaries can delist themselves. “There is nothing to fear because even the DSWD cannot arbitrarily delist a beneficiary. It is all up to the beneficiaries whether they comply with the conditions set,” Cabido said.

Even with permits, IP students face threats if they return

The Manobo community of Talaingod ended their camp-in protest in the Department of Education after the permits of their community schools were partially released. But they still fear threats from soliders and paramilitary once they go back.

Manobo leader Datu Doloman Dawsay from their group Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon said they will still stay in a church compound here in Davao City until all permits are released and local officials would order the pullout of soldiers and paramilitary troops in Talaingod.

“Naa man gihapon sila didto sa tunga sa among komunidad, apil na diha sa among mga balay ug eskwelahan” (They [the military] are still there within our community, staying in our homes and even in schools) said Dawsay. “Mao nga nagbakwit mi diri halos duha na ka bulan, wala pa ning panghasi sa DepEd nga ipasara among mga eskwelahan,” (That is why we evacuated here a month ago, even before the threats of DepEd to close our schools) he added.

Dawsay urged DepEd officials and other local officials to order the pull out of troops from Talaingod so that they can resume their farming and children can return to school. As of this date, the students under the Salugpongan Community Learning Center (STTICLC) are holding temprorary classes in the church compound or in other areas which accomodates the students.

“The permit is never enough to protect our children from military attacks, we still urge Atty. Escobarte to hear our complaints and conduct investigations among these schools under attack” Datu Dawsay said

SOS Network spokesperson Rius Valle urged DepEd “to help the lumads against the continuing the military attacks on lumad schools in Talaingod and other provinces with STTICLC campuses.”

Valle said reports reached the network that parents and students in Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental were threatened by soldiers that their support from the government’s 4Ps program will be discontinued if they enrol in Salugpongan.

Dawsay also confirmed that their children were threatened by soldiers. “Naga ingon pud ang mga sundalo nga kung magpaenroll daw ang mga bata namo sa Salugpongan dili na dawaton sa ubang eskwelahan, (The soldiers said that our children will not be accepted in other schools if they continue to enroll in Salugpongan)” said Datu Dawsay.

They also receieved reports that only three students have enrolled in STTICLC School in Sitio Tibucag, Brgy. Dagohoy, Talaingod due to constant threats from soldiers. Some schools under construction including Barangay Mascareg in Mabini were held by the soldiers in Brgy. Mascareg, Mabini, Compostela Valley.

“The Department of Education still has to act on our plea to help us fight the continuing military attacks on our schools which is the main reason why the IPs are here,” said Valle.

Dinky Soliman should listen to Lumad children instead, says SOS Network

“Maybe Dinky should listen to children’s demands and send letters to Military to spare the school and IP communities from military operation” said Rius Valle, Spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network.

Despite DepEd’s declaration that the Salugpongan School and MISFI Academy may continue to operate as permits were handed over by DepEd – Indigenous People’s Education Office (IPsEO) last week, soldiers of 67th Infantry Battalion in Cateel, Davao Oriental, have been reported to have continued their attacks on schools unabated.

Based on SOS reports, just yesterday, elements of 67th IB led by a certain Sgt. Acmad and Sgt. Itaw have openly threatened parents and students at Sitio Paglusngan, Brgy. Taytayan, Cateel, Davao Oriental. “The soldiers said that anyone who enrolls at Salugpongan School will cease to receive the Government’s 4Ps cash assistance from DSWD or will be delisted from the program” said Valle.

“Teachers were even directed to stop their classes since the soldiers were telling them that Salugpongan schools doesn’t have the permit to operate quoting the DepEd memorandum” Anna Eza Cohitmingao, Teacher-In-Charge of the school, said in a report.

“The children’s calls are legitimate, and it is clear that the soldiers have been using DSWD’s 4Ps program to threaten parents and children not to enroll in MISFI and Salugpongan Schools. I wonder who is using something for their malicious interest?” said Valle.

Valle added that, children only want education, and they are entitled to be heard by the Government who are being paid by the people’s taxes to serve and protect all Filipino People, especially the children.

“I will no longer rebut Dinky’s irresponsible remarks regarding the term ‘use’ of children since she doesn’t even care to listen to the calls of the IP children on education” Valle said.

Valle issued this challenge to the DSWD secretary: “Sec. Dinky Soliman must issue a clarificatory statement or order regarding the threats of stopping the 4P’s cash assistance to IPs beneficiaries to intimidate and prevent IP students and their parents from availing of Salupongan’s IP charity education which, if Soliman is not aware of, is a clear violation of children’s right to development” Valle said.

Miriam wants probe on closure of lumad schools in Davao del Norte

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago wants to investigate the closure of the lumad school Salugpongan Community Learning Center and the fielding of soldiers as “para-teachers”.

The senator filed on June 8 Proposed Senate Resolution No. 1392 that seeks the senate to conduct an inquiry on reports that 3,000 students would be affected by the shutdown of lumad schools.

Santiago wants to probe why the Department of Education Davao del Norte made an order last May to close the schools and replace them with schools that have soldiers acting as “para-teachers”.

She said that such moves violate the Constitution particularly in Article 2, sections 5 and 17.

Section 5 states: “The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.”

Section 17, on the other hand, states: “The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, promote total human liberation and development.”

Santiago also proposed that schools all over the country should be declared as peace zones where the military and other armed groups should keep away.

The senator’s resolution is based on reports from Save Our Schools Network which also raised complaints last December 2014 that soldiers have camped out in schools and disrupted regular schooling. She noted their documents reported that the operations of the Philippine Army’s 60th and 68th Infantry Battalions have affected 4,300 students and 41 teachers from January to May this year.

Education official slammed for ordering lumad school clsoure and for soldiers to act as para-teachers

The provincial head of the Department of Education recommended the closing of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and offered soldiers to act as ‘para-teachers’ to the indigenous children.

This were the recommendations raised in a letter from DepEd Davao del Norte Superintendent Dr. Josephine Fadul to the DepEd regional office last May 12. Fadul said that the the Talaingod tribal council ordered a reevaluation of the STTICLC, as she proposed the creation of a school in Barangay Butay to replace the learning center, with soldiers acting as ‘para-teachers’.

The recommendations was opposed by the SOS Network as the group assailed Fadul’s ignorance and indifference to the Salugpongan students and teachers who feared the military for their presence in their schools and communities.

STTICLC basic education principal Ronnie Garcia questioned the basis of the closure, as he said the community school had the approval of the tribal leaders when it started in 2008.

Garcia also questioned Fadul for basing her recommendations in her meeting with a ‘regional intelligence committee’ but failed to conduct meetings with STTICLC administrators on their concerns on the security of the schoolchildren and teachers against military harassments.

The SOS in a statement urged the regional DepEd head to junk Fadul’s recommendation as it fails to address the need of indigenous children. The move will close down 24 Salugpongan campuses affecting 600 children.

“The education of children especially in the rural communities is lagging behind the universal education targets. But such decision from a supposed educator only undermines the right of the children to access to education and also to efforts of community educators whose commitment is to thelp these children,” their statement said.
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Manobo leader said soldiers told them: “burn that school down”

DAVAO CITY- Accounts of repeated efforts by the military to prevent the alternative learning schools of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) from operating were reported by the datus (tribal chieftains) of Talaingod at Save Our Schools Network.

Datu Ginom Andel, a chieftain of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon from Sitio Tibukag, claimed that the elements from the 68th IBPA instructed the local leaders to torch the Salugpungan school in the same locale. “Didto sila nagkampo sa tunga sa DepEd nga eskwelahan ug sa Salugpungan. Nagkalot ug mga foxhole, nya nag sabit ug mga trapal para sa atopv(They camped right in the middle of the DepEd school and Salugpongan. They dug a foxhole, and put up their tents)”, Datu Ginom remembers.

“Didto sa DepEd na nila ipatawag ang mga tao, kay ilang sturyahon, pangitaan aha daw ang NPA,” (“They called the people into the DepEd (school). There they would speak to them, asking where are the NPA”), he added.

In one particular discussion, Datu Ginom and his companions were called for a meeting in the DepEd school this month of May. There, he recalled, the military told him and the others to burn the school down. “Giingnan mi sa sundalo ‘Sunugon na ninyo dapat kanang eskwelahan, kay mao kana sa komunista’” (“The soldier told us ‘You should burn that school down, because it is run by communists’”). “Gitubag namo ‘Ay dili namo na buhaton, kay kani nga eskwelahan maoy naghatag edukasyon, nya libre pa jud, wa ka lain bayaran.’”(“We replied ‘We wont do that, because this school gave us education that is for free, we don’t have to pay for anything”), Ginom said.

Apart from the efforts to burn the school down, Ginom also said that the military told them to kill the teachers of the Salugpungan should they come to attend the school for the upcoming classes. “Kung naa daw muabot na teacher gikan sa Salugpungan, patyon daw namo, kay sa NPA daw ang eskwelahan, ang teacher kuno kay NPA,” (“If a teacher from Salugpungan arrives, we would have to kill them, because the school is owned by the NPA, the teachers NPA’s themselves”), Ginom added.

Due to these, the chances of opening the Salugpungan school in Tibukag for the upcoming classes is bleak, as state forces continually threaten its staff and to destroy the school structure. Rius Valle, Save Our Schools Network said that the attacks against the schools by the military reflected the real face of the AFP. “Contrary to the claims of peace and development flouted by the AFP in the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, government troops have only sowed terror and displayed interest in further marginalizing the lumad communities of Talaingod,” Valle said.

Valle added, that Ginom’s account of the AFP operation in Sitio Tibukag may be happening across other alternative learning schools in Mindanao as well. “The students in Sitio Tibukag may not be the only ones who will be affected by the presence of military troops, as the AFP continues to harass staff of Salugpungan schools all over Southern Mindanao.###