Lumad students, teachers coming to Manila to demand end to attacks on schools

July 20, 2017 - 10:59 AM
Troops of the 84th Infantry Battalion who set up camp at a school of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. or MISFI in Sitio Licuyan, Brgy. Tambobong, Baguio District, Davao City in November last year. (contributed photo)

MANILA, Philippines — As they have in the past few years, some 300 lumad students, accompanied by some of their teachers and parents, will be going to Manila from Mindanao to drumbeat their demand for an end to continued attacks on tribal schools.

More than 50 students from the Caraga region will be arriving Thursday while the bulk of the contingent will be in Manila on Sunday, July 23, a day before President Rodrigo Duterte’s second state of the nation address, the Save our Schools Campaign said.

Although Duterte has often touted himself as a champion of lumad rights, statistics from the SOS Campaign showed no letup in attacks on schools set up and run by civil society and religious organizations in tribal communities in Mindanao, invariably by security forces that openly accuse them of supporting the communist revolutionary movement.

A student by the shattered window through which militiaman Rodel ‘Ang-angoy’ Butanlog shot at Ramel Miguel, a teacher of the Salugpongan school in Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte on June 20. Miguel escaped unhurt. Three other teachers and some 60 students witnessed the incident. (contributed photo)

Since July last year, SOS recorded at least 83 attacks on 89 lumad schools ranging from threats to students and teachers, to occupation of the schools and other civilian structures by soldiers, to extrajudicial killings and at least one enforced disappearance.

Among the killings were that of Emelito Rotimas, chairman of Purok 6, Barangay Lapu-Lapu, Maco town in Compostela Valley who was shot dead before noon on February 6 by suspected military agents in front of five students.

He was a known advocate of education for the lumad and worked to establish a branch of the Community Technical College of Southern Mindanao in Barangay Lapu-Lapu.

Kiling of Lumad education advocates and environmental defenders-couple

On March 2, the Pesdailla couple — Leonila, 55, and Ramon, 59 — were murdered in their home in Barangay Osmeña, Compostela town, by two gunmen believed to be military agents.Their grandson witnessed the killings.

The two were members of the Compostela Farmers Association who had donated a parcel of land to host the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center in the town.

PTCA members Alicia Tindasan, Jhona Rose Baugto (top), Estanislao Talledo and Alexir Mata (bottom) in their cells at the Compostela municipal police station after they were arrested by the military and charged with illegal possession of explosives on July 2.

The attacks, SOS said, have forced the closure of 27 schools and affected 2,624 students and 229 parents-teachers-community associations.

The latest evacuations happened early this month, when more than 2,000 lumad, including students and teachers, Lianga and San Miguel towns in Surigao del Sur fled their homes after government troops began operating in the area.


2,000 lumad, including students and teachers of tribal school, flee military operations in Surigao del Sur

The evacuees included the students and faculty of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV, an award-winning high school in Lianga whose administrator was murdered by members of a military-backed militia in September 2015. The killing of Emerito Samarca and of Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Jovello Sinzo triggered the mass evacuation of thousands of lumad who stayed at the provincial capital Tandag for a year.

Campos and Sinzo were executed in front of hundreds of tribesfolk, including children, as a nearby Army unit watched and did nothing.

To date, the killers of Samarca and the two tribal leaders remain at large.