DepEd’s greeting for indigenous groups triggered reminders about an area of neglect

August 11, 2020 - 7:44 AM
Lumad- Matigsalug kids graduatn, 2018,Ogilvy 1
Matigsalug students attend the commencement and moving-up exercises of the Pamulaan Center for Indigenous Peoples Education Elementary Department on March 25. (Photo courtesy of Ogilvy)

Filipinos on Twitter reminded the Department of Education of the closure of Lumad schools in response to its greeting for Indigenous People’s Day.

The United Nations dedicated August 9 as the day of observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to celebrate the culture and advocate the rights of indigenous communities in the world.

In a greeting shared on social media on that day, the Department of Education expressed its solidarity to the same advocacy for the indigenous peoples or IPs in the country.

The agency used the hashtags #SulongEduKalidad, #DepEdPhilippines and #DepEdTayo in its posts. It also attached a creative publication material for the greeting.

“Ang Kagawaran ng Edukasyon ay patuloy na nakikiisa sa pagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao, pag-aari, at pagpapayaman ng kultura ng bawat katutubong Pilipino ngayong Araw ng mga Katutubo,” DepEd’s post read.

It added the UN’s theme for this year’s observance: “COVID-19 and Indigenous People’s Resilience.”

“Ang tema ng pagdiriwang ngayong taon ay ‘COVID-19 and Indigenous People’s Resilience’ na kumikilala sa angking kakayahan at gawi ng mga katutubo sa kanilang paglaban sa kinahaharap na pandemya ng mundo,” DepEd said.

Such greeting, however, did not sit well among advocates of dedicated educational facilities for Lumad or indigenous students.

Twitter user @miIitante shared screenshots of two news items on DepEd’s order to close 55 private schools catering to Lumad children in the Davao region in October 2019 due to some allegations.

Another activist named Chedd who goes by the Twitter handle @chdlemsic also criticized the alleged militarization of IP communities.

“The state doesn’t militarize Lumad communities for no reason. It acts in accordance with the interest of transnat’l corpos, local landlords, and compradors,” he said.

176 schools were shut down

Alcadev, a community-run Lumad school in Surigao del Sur, noted that 176 institutions, not just 55, were permanently shut down during the Duterte administration.

It also cited a provision from Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that state IP’s rights to education, wherein:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”

In its tweet, Alcadev denounced that Duterte, DepEd and the military have not shown readiness to uphold those rights.

“DepEd, AFP and Duterte admin do not respect that by closing 176 Lumad schools. Stop gaslighting us this Indigenous People’s Day,” Alcadev said.

Chad Booc, who was a volunteer teacher at Alcadev, likewise lashed out at DepEd.

“How dare DepEd claim na nakikiisa sila sa mga katutubo? Ang kapal ng mukha?” Booc said on Twitter.

Child rights group Save Our Schools Network, meanwhile, likewise issued a statement that decried the constant attacks against Lumad schools in Mindanao and unfounded accusations that the schools harbor rebels and terrorists since 2016.

“These attacks and labeling are systemic as the government tries to paint the Lumad as rebels and terrorists. But it conceals the dark motive of the Duterte administration that is to open Mindanao’s last frontiers of mineral and natural resources to multinational corporations,” its statement read.

On the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the Save Our Schools Network stands with the Indigenous…

Posted by Save Our Schools Network on Sunday, August 9, 2020

Why were they closed?

President Rodrigo Duterte had been keen on tagging these teaching facilities as supposed venues to indoctrinate IP students on socialism. He also threatened to bomb the establishments in 2017.

In October 2019, DepEd shutdown 54 schools run by the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. which National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. accused to be teaching students on using firearms.

The students were also alleged to be under the control of school administrators.

DepEd said that other schools were closed due to supposedly lacking documents to operate legally.