No due process in DepEd order to close Lumad schools — child rights NGO

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No due process in DepEd order to close Lumad schools — child rights NGO

MANILA, Philippines — A group advocating children’s access to education denounced the Department of Education Davao Region’s resolution ordering the permanent closure of more than 50 campuses of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center.

“We are enraged over the decision of the DepEd Region XI (Davao Region) to permanently shut down the Lumad community schools based on the malicious and false claims of the military, disregarding the fact that such a move is tantamount to the disenfranchisement of thousands of Lumad children to their right to education,” Save Our Schools Network said in a Facebook post Wednesday.

“Contrary to what the DepEd is trying hard to portray, the order is baseless, partial and reeks with ill-motive. It is a clear betrayal of Lumad’s hope for education.”

DepEd Davao Region spokesperson Jenielito Atillo made the announcement on the closure of the schools at a press briefing on Tuesday, according to a report by CNN Philippines.

SOS Network claimed the DepEd office in the region failed to conduct a proper investigation and give the Salugpongan schools a chance to respond to the allegations.

“The DepEd XI may have formed a ‘fact-finding team’ to supposedly look into the allegations against Salugpongan schools, but it has really no intention to look at the merits of the arguments of the Salugpungan schools on the accusations hurled against them,” the group said. 

“They only set foot on Nasilaban, Talaingod but did not proceed to the schools.”

Recurring problem

DepEd Davao Region’s lack of due process was also seen when it refused to grant Salugpongan’s permit to operate and suspended the schools in July after a complaint filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, SOS Network said.

DepEd suspended Salugpungan schools in July based on a report by Esperon that the schools were teaching students to rebel against the government, an allegation that President Rodrigo Duterte also made in 2017 when he threatened to bomb Lumad schools.

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said then that the schools’ operations had been suspended because they do not have permits to operate. She said only 11 of the schools applied for a new permit to operate for this year.

“Last year, none of the 55 were issued permits to operate because they could not comply with the requirements,” she said.

Among the requirements, she said, were having legally titled land for the school campus and having enough teachers.

“We have our own regulations, and we have been issuing permits for many private schools,” she said, adding that DepEd had already built schools in the areas that the Lumad schools serve, so students can instead go to those.

The group criticized Briones for justifying these measures and “parroting the vilification and recycled accusation that the Salugpongan schools are teaching communist ideology among its students.”

Alternative education

The 1987 Constitution recognizes and promotes alternative learning systems in the country.

It states in Article XIV, Section 2 that the state shall “[e]stablish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” and “[e]ncourage non-formal, informal, and indigenous learning systems, as well as self-learning, independent, and out-of-school study programs particularly those that respond to community needs.”

SOS Network said Salugpongan was established in 2007 to help realize the dreams of the Talaingod Manobo and other Lumad communities of a free, quality and culturally relevant education.

The group called on the government to stop the extension of martial law in Mindanao and rejected the validity of the DepEd order.

“At the same time, we reiterate our appeal to the public to stand with us in defending the Lumad community schools and in solidarity with the Lumad as they struggle for their right to land and self-determination.