Lumad schools press DepEd to release permits to operate

Teachers and students of lumad schools and members of tribal communities at the DepEd Region 12 office. (CLANS photo)

MANILA, Philippines — Teachers and students of lumad schools in Region 12, or Soccsksargen, accompanied by the schoolchildren’s parents, trooped to the Department of Education regional office to demand the release of their permits to operate and an end to the militarization they say has forced shut more than 30 schools.

This, said the Save Our Schools Network, is “the most number of forcible school closures in the whole of Mindanao.”

“The Duterte administration has done nothing but wreak havoc to lumad schools in spite of their sincere efforts to provide free education to the lumad,” Thimoty Romero, SOS regional spokesman said in a statement.

Romero said the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services Inc., one of the nongovernmental organizations that operate schools in remote indigenous peoples’ communities, has had 33 of its schools “forcibly closed due to intense military operations brought by martial law,” which President Rodrigo Duterte declared over Mindanao in May last year and which Congress has extended twice, the latest for the whole of the current year.

On the other hand, Romero said the DepEd regional office has been holding on to the permit to operate of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy “for over six years” despite submitting all requirements.

He also pointed out that “all MISFI teachers within the region are passers of the Board Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers.”

“Denial of our PTOs is also a denial of the lumad communities’ right to education” and exposes tribal schools and their faculty, students and members of the schools’ parents, teachers and community associations to great risk from human rights violations by state security forces and local government authorities, Romero said.

CLANS has been particularly targeted in Sultan Kudarat province, Romero noted.

In July last year, CLANS PTCA member Pastor Kama Sanong was arrested by Marines and remains detained after he was “falsely charged with illegal possession of firearms.”

Early this month, CLANS teacher Jolita Tolino was arrested at her home in Sitio Chiris, Barangay Sangay, Kalamansig town for murder and frustrated murder charges filed against her and several colleagues and community leaders over a clash between communist rebels and Marines last year that left one soldier dead and nine others wounded.

The teacher remains detained at the police jail in Isulan town.