Velez: A failure to protect schools

IT WILL be fine if public officials would defend to death the right of every kid to be in school.

Except that this one public official in Davao tried to defend his son’s right to graduate by threatening the professor.

This happened in Ateneo de Davao University, where this official barged into campus with his bodyguards, and muttered these words “We are a family of lawyers and killers. We can take down this school.” This according to the statement of the Ateneo.

While the Ateneo community and the social netizens are quick to condemn such bullying, there is one point raised by an Ateneo alumni about how selective the university is to act on issues that affect the country.

In his Facebook post, he said this: “I’m also disturbed at how fast the university can file a complaint when one of its own is threatened and how it has seemingly been mute about the many issues that plague the nation today e.g. EJKs (extrajudicial killings), the lowering of moral standards, the gradual destruction of democratic institutions etc.

If Ateneo de Davao could quickly issue a statement on this incident and yet remain silent on the other issues that are far graver but more distant, then what does it want to teach us about integrity?”

The issue he raised is not just about parental bullying. But also, about our awareness on the violence that pervades in our society. I particularly would raise how Lumad children and their teachers are continuously threatened by soldiers and paramilitary.

Just like that Davao public official, these men in uniform supposedly out to protect the people would threaten the school teachers: “Why are you teaching here? Do you have permits?” As if the right to learn has to be bounded by a law or by a piece of paper.

There are recent incidents of this kind of threats. A group of Salugpongan teachers and children in Nasilaban, Talaingod who were going to their moving up activity were detained by soldiers and paramilitary. Their bags were frisked, their faces photographed.

Such problems continue, because of one public official who has not acted on these Lumad schools’ appeal to stop militarization of schools.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has been bombarded figuratively with letters and appeals to act on this issue, to press on following national and international laws of protecting schools from attacks.

But Briones has turned blind to these appeals on several occasions, the latest during the event here in Davao last January. The event ironically was celebrating ten years of the Department of Education’s indigenous peoples’ education program.

It will be good if officials would defend the children’s right to death. But instead, it is the children and teachers who are dying in this gun-crazed, war-torn society of Digong.
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