ONLY two days after a Senate panel visited Tandag City to investigate the killing of indigenous people in Surigao del Sur, the military is again threatening to shut down another school, this time in Bukidnon, residents said on Monday.
“This is the government’s idea of a [World Teacher’s Day] gift to us teachers of these literacy and numeracy schools, who have opted to work in these remote areas hardly reached by government services,” said Evelyn E. Cabangal, a teacher of the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School in Barangay White Culaman, Kitatao, Bukidnon.
Cabangal said soldiers from the 8th and 23rd Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army, together with barangay chairman Felipe Cabigsanon, threatened to burn down the school if it has not voluntarily shut down.
“Our school has been operating since June 2014. We have complied with all the DepEd requirements in securing a permit, and in fact, it is supposed to be released on Monday,” Cabangal said.
Cabangal said officials from DepEd have been visiting their schools for the said permit, checking their papers and observing some classes, but school administrators suspect there might be external parties wanting to block the certification of the school.
“Last May 5, I was here to prepare for summer classes,” said Cabangal, adding that the school caters mainly to the children of indigenous families.
“The military came, saying they received reports that there were armed individuals here. I told them that these were just hearsay. We are legal, and we are giving service to these poor families who could not afford to send their children even to public schools,” she said.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers said the incident showed the inaction of the military and the Department of Education on allegations that they were militarizing the schools for indigenous people.
ACT secretary general France Castro said the Bukidnon incident was the latest in a series of actions that has already reasulted in the killing of indigenous people, called lumad.
“The lumad has been denied the most basic social services like education for decades already and this heinous crime is designed to further deny them their right for education and other social services,” Castro said.
“President Benigno Aquino and Education Secretary Armin Luistro are equally liable for this after the latter issued DepEd Memorandum No. 221 which allowed the entry and use of soldiers for their military activities and operations,” Castro said.
“Their hands are tainted with blood like the soldiers and the Magahat Bagani,” Castro added.
Luistro meanwhile celebrated this year’s World Teachers’ Day at the Araullo University in Cabanatuan City, emphasizing the great responsibility of every teacher in preparing the Filipino youth to be better equipped for the world.
“If all the teachers in the country start to move as one, we will start the biggest revolution in education,” Luistro said.
“The revolution in education is a revolution that will change the country and bring about all of the dreams and hopes of our young people... If you want to transform our country, we need living heroes,” he added.
Luistro appealed to the public to say “thank you” to their teachers and give the due recognition that they deserve.
“Our teachers across the country are just hoping that one of their former students who is now successful in life would greet them and say ‘thank you.’ But only few of us who can remember this and thank their teachers,” Luistro said.
“Thank you so much, you are the real treasure of our country,” he said.
Luistro, in a chance interview with reporters, said that the Education department has been pushing hard to increase the salary of the country’s educators.
“Every year, we demand for an increase of teachers’ salaries and other benefits. But we will not do it here because we do not want this celebration [of World Teachers’ Day] being commercialized,” Luistro added.