Classes in Talaingod, Surigao 'face threat of militarization'

DAVAO CITY -- Classes for Lumad children back in their communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, are under threat of being disrupted by soldiers and paramilitary groups encamped in their communities.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network Southern Mindanao said there were reports coming from teachers of Salugpongan Community Learning Center that they were warned by the community not to proceed to Sitio Piroy, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, as soldiers from 68th Infantry Battalion together with members of Lumad militia group Alamara are currently staying and encamping within the community, which is within close perimeter of the school.

"Two teachers from Salugpongan are still staying in Sitio Tibucag, Barangay Dagohoy since Lumad leaders told them not to proceed due to the presence of the military and Alamara in Sitio Piroy," said Valle.

Valle added that soldiers and Lumad militias have been there for about a week now.

Valle said this school year, about 1,000 Lumad students in Mindanao will begin classes in evacuation centers, as the Armed Forces of the Philippines implements its last leg of the counter-insurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan that has been disrupting the lives of the Lumads, including children.

SOS said some 100 Lumad children still remain in the sanctuary of UCCP Haran in Davao City with their parents and will have their classes handled by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI).

Valle noted the injustice against Manobo Lumads in Surigao del Sur who were unable to return home as five teachers from Alcadev and TRIFPSS were being charged with trumped-up human trafficking cases. Some 842 students of these schools will begin this school year in makeshift classes in Tandag Sports Complex.

Valle said a new spate of military harassment against 82 families or 211 individuals from Gigaquit, Surigao del Sur, has forced them to evacuate last May.

But instead of feeling threatened, Valle said the Lumads learned to struggle for their right to education.

"The government's counter-insurgency have targeted and wrecked Lumad's lives and communities, but their children have shown resistance by continuing their education. The Aquino government is afraid of Lumad children learning about their rights and how to defend it," said Valle.

But the SOS hopes the new Duterte administration can change the situation for the Lumads by pulling out military and paramilitary troops from their communities.

"With the new incoming administration, hopes are high that the concern of the IPs (indigenous peoples) will be finally attended to, especially the Lumad children's education. This includes seeking justice and accountability for Lumad victims of state violence perpetrated by the Aquino Administration," Valle said.

"We are hopeful that the new administration will be able to help Lumad children continue their education not in evacuation sites anymore but right within their community, where they would be able to return safe and sound," he said. (PR)

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