Group decries Opapp probe on Lumad schools

A LUMAD group said it was offended when the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) held a legislative inquiry against Lumad schools in Mindanao.

The schools in question are the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc. (Alcadev) and Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur, Inc. (TRIFPSS).

The Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), said the supposed inquiry was done only to malign these educational institutions.

The group said that from April 26, 2019 to April 28, troops belonging to the 401st Brigade arrived at Km. 9, Sitio Simowao, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur and encamped in the civilian homes of Sitio Emerald.

On April 28, the military gathered the residents at the school. At 9 o’clock in the morning a helicopter was seen flying overhead and 10 high luxury cars then arrived going straight to the school run by TRIFPSS.

"We were taken aback by what happened and were not aware who those people were. Without permission, they attempted to open a classroom but were stopped by a community official. They proceeded, still without permission, to take pictures of the school," the group said in a statement.

"We found out later that they were the 'inspection team' led by Atty. Reuben Lingating, chairman of the Indigenous People’s Peace Panel of Opapp; Adora Pueblo, Committee Secretariat of CICCIP and representatives from DepEd, DILG and NCIP. They were joined by members of the Magahat paramilitary group led by Marcos Bocales,” the group said.

According to them, the visit was done to verify reports that the schools are connected to the CPP-NPA.

CICCIP added that they already submitted “significant data and information” to the Office of the House Speaker and National Security Adviser last December 2018 and January 2019. The inspection was allegedly based on such data.

The group questioned why the investigators included army soldiers and paramilitary group. They also noted that there were no representatives from the local government.

"It is clear that the so-called 'inquiry' is nothing but a display to hopefully provide basis to their made-up accusations against TRIFPSS and Alcadev to force the closure of the schools," Mapasu said.

The group maintained that, TRIFPSS has been educating Lumad people for 25 years. Alcadev, meanwhile, was established through a collective effort and has been in the service for 15 years now.

"What the military and the government agencies have done shows their lack of respect for us Lumad. They do not recognize our right to our ancestral lands and to self-determination, our right to choose the kind of education suitable to our culture, traditions and way of life. They belittle our unity. These people treat us like we lack the ability to think," the group said.

Meanwhile, Major General Franco Nemesio Gacal, 4ID commander, said he is confident that the inquiry will result into laws that would ensure right education for children, and better protection for Indigenous Peoples.

“Let truth finally come out about these dubious organizations who continue to sow discord in our communities particularly among our lumads. I am confident their true colors will be exposed along with the persons and organizations behind them who lure unsuspecting people including our children and youth,” Gacal said.

“They have been hiding under the cloak of these schools and other entities all these years to promote communist-terrorist ideologies. Let’s save our children and youth from the clutches of the CPP-NPA. It is about time we stop them from destroying families, communities and the entire country," he added.


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