THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied on Friday, May 18, allegations that they burned and strafed Lumad (indigenous people) schools in Mindanao.
Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the units in the Eastern Mindanao command and the 10th infantry division categorically denied that they forcibly closed, burned or strafed indigenous people’s schools in the said region.
“We challenge our accusers. Provide details: which schools, where, and when were the alleged acts committed. Those are serious allegations of criminal acts. And they should file appropriate cases in court. They should not resort to deception and lies,” he said.
“Those allegations against us are preposterous and malicious and are meant to malign the reputation and discredit the AFP,” he added.
Arevalo maintained that the AFP helps construct schools and provide security to students and teachers and will not do harm to the people especially their brothers and sisters in the indigenous communities.
He said that such claim is nothing but another disinformation campaign by the New People's Army, armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, to discredit the military to win back public support they have lost.
Mary Ann Manja Bayang, external assistant of United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Corpuz, said several indigenous people groups reported to Corpuz earlier alleged harassment and human rights violations committed by the military including the alleged burning, closing and strafing of their schools.
As a result, students are attending classed in evacuation centers.
Protesters said that since the entire Mindanao was placed under martial law, the AFP forcibly closed 56 schools. Of these, 19 were allegedly either burned or strafed. (SunStar Philippines)