A teachers group on Sunday denounced the Department of Education order to close 55 schools for indigenous people in the Davao region, calling the decision a “betrayal of lumad children in the name of the state’s fascists policies.”
“These Lumad schools were established out of the initiatives of lumad communities themselves following decades of state abandonment,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said in a statement.
The lumad schools had faithfully complied with the DepEd requirements for establishing community schools, said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio, only to be closed on the say-so of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
A spokesperson of DepEd Region XI said the indigenous peoples’ (IPs) schools were shut down based on a report from Esperon that students were taught to rebel against the government.
“By bowing to military command, DepEd is effectively saying that the government’s war and fascism trumps the youth’s democratic right to education. It gave more weight to the military’s destructive and fascist maneuvers than it did to lumad children’s cry for education,” Basilio said.
The teachers said DepEd has previously failed to protect IP children from military and paramilitary harassment and forced school closures.
“We challenge DepEd to stand by its duty to civilians and resist the creeping takeover of military command over the bureaucracy,” Basilio said.
DepEd XI spokesperson Jenielito Atillio said the 55 suspended tribal schools in Davao Region have been given five days to refute allegations that they have links to the communist rebel movement.
The 55 schools are owned by Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers.
Atillo said the suspension also carried a “show cause” order telling Salugpungan executive director Maria Eugenia Nolasco to provide a written explanation on Esperon’s allegations.
Esperon, who also chairs the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, alleged that the Salugpungan tribal school system promotes the New People’s Army’s (NPA) communist ideology that espouses the violent overthrow of the government; trains its students to hold mass actions against the government; and uses curriculums not in accordance with the DepEd guidelines.
Atillo said Esperon’s allegations are backed by the testimonies of a former teacher of a Salugpungan school who has since left the organization.
“The basis of Secretary Esperon is the affidavit executed by Melvin Loyod who is a former student of a certain Salugpungan school and eventually became a volunteer teacher in a Salugpungan school in Sitio Pongpong, Barangay Sto. Niño Talaingod Davao del Norte,” Atillo said.