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.