The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) joins Save our Schools (SOS) Network for a 3- day trooping and dialogue with different government agencies starting today July 6, 2015 in Metro Manila. The said activity will be joined by Lumad school administrators, principals and teachers to bring the issue of Department of Education (DepEd) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) connivance to shut down lumad community schools in Mindanao.
“First, it was direct armed intimidation and assaults on schools, children and teachers. Lately, military agents openly incited Lumads to burn their schools and even kill their teachers – very irresponsible actions coming no less from agents who should keep the peace and supposed-gentlemen of the armed forces”, according to Sr. Francis Añover, RMP National Coordinator.
“Failing to intimidate them, the Department of Education (Dep-Ed) entered the fray - to enforce an exclusively stringent permit-to-operate requirements and conditionalities. This civilian government agency also threatened the take-over of indigenous schools, the operations of which would be passed on to military teachers and the para-military Alamara”
The indigenous rights to free-prior-informed consent (FPIC) have also been high jacked, this time by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). This civilian government agency have been instructed to issue certificates of FPIC – a requirement to the issuance of a permit-to-operate, only when indigenous communities had secured consent from no less than the military-controlled Provincial Peace and Order Council.
Not to be outdone, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have threatened to withdraw cash assistance from its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, to Lumad families who insist on enrolling their children to the schools which they themselves built.
“All these are orchestrated actions to force the closure of Lumad schools. These are designed in the framework of the government anti-insurgency campaign known as Oplan Bayanihan. The Aquino government’s tuwid-na-daan has now employed bullying tactics and vented its ire on indigenous communities. It has resorted to militarize education and held hostage innocent and defenseless Lumad children. It has deprived the children of their future,” Sr. Francis added.
The forcible closure of indigenous schools is not simply an issue of compliance to the Dep-Ed’s permit-to-operate requirement. The orchestrated actions of civilian and military agencies of this government are attacks to the right to education, the rights of the child and indigenous peoples’ rights.
Education is a universal right, affirmed by the community of nations in various international laws and treaties. In 2000, under the Millennium Development Goals target, the Philippines had committed to bring half of its out-of-school-youth, to school by 2015.
Interlinked with the right to education is the right of the child. Attacks on children, and involving them is counter-insurgency dirty tactics, are cowardly and shameless acts. Lumad children want to go to schools to secure their future. Schools were community initiatives to fill-up where the state failed to fulfill obligation to provide basic education. With the closure of schools, 3,000 Lumad children have been forced out of their schools.
Attacks on schools are serious violations of indigenous peoples’ inherent rights to self-determination. These attacks are blatant violations of the state’s own Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“The intensification of rights violations has raised the level to a national scandal. If the Philippine state fails to promote, protect and fulfill all of these rights, it is now up to its citizens and the public to insist on what is moral, just and legitimate,” Sr. Francis ended. ###
The RMP is a national organization, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of women and men religious, priests and lay. We live and work with the peasants (farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers).