Some 13 Manobo children whose schools were forced to close due to intense military operations in Talaingod, Davao del Norte today launched a month-long “Cultural Caravan” in Metro Manila.
Og Iskwela Puron (To School I wish), a cultural caravan of students of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Centers in Talaingod, Davao del Norte will run until the commemoration of International Human Rights Day on December 10. The caravan features performances by the students that depict their plight as indigenous peoples and their recent experiences of human rights violations.
Karapatan (a human rights organization) scored the continuing attacks against schools and children’s rights violations, especially with the Armed Forces of the Philippines guidelines 25 and the Department of Education Memorandum 221. Both issuances legitimize the attacks against children by allowing the use of schools/educational institutions for military purposes.
Just this year, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao reported the AFP’s take-over of at least five schools in Southern Mindanao alone:
- Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center Inc. (STTILCI) in Talaingod and Compostela Valley;
- Monkayo Vocational School in Compostela Valley where the 25th IB parked its armored personnel carrier (APC) in the school compound;
- Tugbok Elementary and High School in Tugbok District, Davao City where the 84th IB usually park its 6-by-6 truck in the school gym;
- Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato where 10th Special Forces and 57th IB troops, in full uniform and carrying firearms, freely went in and out of the school, some even played basketball, and used the school’s Internet;
- Kalasagan Elementary School in San Isidro, Lupon, Davao Oriental which is occupied by the 28th IB and 2nd Scout Rangers unit, they also occupied the barangay hall, health center, chapel, basketball courts, and some residences.
“We want to reiterate that these schools are initiated by people’s organizations with the support of church and other advocacy groups as a response to the government’s inability to provide basic education to children in remote places,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said.
On October 27, the STTILC Executive Director Lolita Muya and Basic Education Head Ronnie Garcia filed a complaint letter to the Department of Education Region 11 Director Nenita Lumaad. The letter enumerated the violations committed by 68th IB in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. It also stated the indiscriminate firing of soldiers for six consecutive days in a high school in Sitio Laslasakal, Palma Gil, Talaingod. The soldiers also intimidated the faculty members.
“It is our obligation as a nation to provide safe and peaceful schools for the next generation. Yet, the Aquino government not only failed to provide this to our children, it is even endangering their lives and future because of Oplan Bayanihan’s operations that has transformed these schools into military camps, storage of weapon and even outposts,” Palabay said.
“These are clear violations of the right of children to education,” Palabay added. “With the disruption of their schooling because of military operations and physical attacks on schools and its students and teachers, the children are left traumatized,” Palabay said.
“Karapatan supports Og Iskwela Puron with the demand to the Aquino government to respect the children’s right to education. Children should be protected from any harm that military operations bring,” Palabay said.