Two leftist lawmakers on Sunday condemned the government for allegedly using its Armed Forces against the lumad tribes in Mindanao, explaining that while the killings and evacuations are getting media attention, the denial of the right to education of indigenous children is just as serious.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate accused the government of allowing the recent military-backed closure of a lumad school by Barangay Chairman Felipe Cabugsanon of White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
“The Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School was ordered closed by Cabugnason because of its alleged ties with the New People’s Army. This is a brazen, anachronistic Red-tagging tactic of the military and local government officials in the pursuit of the government’s discredited counter-insurgency operations,” Zarate said.
The military and the police also staged a raid in the same barangay last Aug. 27. At least 13 lumad peasants were arrested in the raid, but have since been released from jail after a Bukidnon court dropped charges against them for lack of merit.
The school was established in memory of the late Italian missionary and lumad advocate, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, who was murdered on Oct. 10, 2011 in Arakan town, North Cotabato by suspected members of the military-backed Bagani paramilitary group.
Tentorio, a staunch environmentalist, was also responsible for the establishment of several lumad schools in the hinterland areas of North Cotabato, Bukidnon and other areas of Mindanao.
Tentorio spent 32 years among the lumads.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Neri Colmenares, also of Bayan Muna, likewise condemned the closure of lumad schools.
“It is the children who suffer most. The right to education of the indigenous peoples, especially in Mindanao, has long been neglected by the government; it is one of the causes of their marginalized condition until now,” Colmenares said.
“Education is a right. It is laudable that lumad advocates have put up these schools on their own, despite risks and hardships, while the government keeps on cutting corners on the education budget. It is condemnable that the military seems determined to keep lumad children out of school,” Colmenares added.
Colmenares reiterated his call during the budget deliberations for education officials to be pro-active in protecting lumad schools.
Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Service Relations chief Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said lumad schools put up by non-government organizations were allegedly “radicalizing” the tribesmen.
He said the military supports Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas’ proposal for the DepEd to check the curriculum of schools run by the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) that are allegedly propagating the revolutionary goals of the NPA.
“Congressman Trenas’ call is a welcome development because we want to stop of the radicalization of the lumad children in the Alcadev schools which are subliminally espousing the culture of violence,” Kakilala said.