MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to bomb schools of indigenous communities in Mindanao allegedly teaching students to rebel against the government.
“They’re operating without the Department of Education’s permit kasi eskwelahan nila [because their schools]…they’re teaching subversion, communism, lahat-lahat na [everything],” he said during a press conference on Monday after his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
“So umalis kayo d’yan. Sabihin ko diyan sa mga Lumad ngayon, umalis kayo d’yan. Bobombahan ko ‘yan. Isali ko ‘yang mga istraktura n’yo [So leave the schools. I will tell the Lumad now to get away from there. I will bomb those schools. I will include your structures],” he said.
“I will use the Armed Forces, the Philippine Air Force. Talagang bobombahan ko ‘yang lahat ng mga ano n’yo because you’re operating illegally and you’re teaching the children to rebel against government,” the President added.
Earlier in the day, during his SONA, Duterte said he would pursue the peace process in Mindanao under the blueprint of the Bangsamoro Transition Plan, which would be “inclusive” for all Mindanaoans, including Moros and Lumad.
Lumad groups had marched to Metro Manila and trooped to the Batasang Pambansa on Monday to call for an end to martial law in Mindanao and the militarization of their homes.
Thousands of them fled their homes in Surigao del Sur in 2015 when Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) executive director Emerito Samarca and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo were murdered.
Campos and Sinzo were allegedly executed by Magahat militiamen in Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, in front of hundreds of residents who had been ordered out of their homes, as well as the students and teachers of ALCADEV.
According to the Save Our Schools campaign, there have been at least 83 attacks on 89 Lumad schools since July last year, ranging from threats to students and teachers, occupation of the schools and other civilian structures by soldiers to extrajudicial killings and at least one case of enforced disappearance.
Among the killings were that of Emelito Rotimas, chairman of Purok 6, Brgy. Lapu-Lapu, Maco town in Compostela Valley who was shot dead before noon on February 6 by suspected military agents in front of five students.
He had worked to establish a branch of the Community Technical College of Southern Mindanao in Brgy. Lapu-Lapu.
For its part, the Department of Education (DepEd) in November last year released a statement saying it “maintains its position that schools and all learning institutions are zones of peace where students and teaching personnel must feel secure in their pursuit of quality basic education.”
The DepEd added that it “affirms its policy prohibiting armed personnel from entering school grounds.”