GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 November) — Government troops are pushing for the closure of another school for indigenous peoples or Lumad in an upland village in Malapatan town in Sarangani which they suspected of being run by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and sympathizers.
Capt. Rodini Bogador, spokesperson of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, said Monday they monitored the presence of the “NPA school” in Sitio Lamsalo, Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan.
He said the school is not recognized by the local government and the Department of Education and is being operated by several individuals who are either members or supporters of the NPA.
“This is not a regular school that has permanent buildings. This is highly mobile and moves to other areas from time to time,” he said in an interview over Brigada News TV.
Citing information relayed by concerned residents and former NPA rebels, he said the school’s teachers had been trained by the NPA to run the school for propaganda purposes.
Bogador said that like regular teachers in recognized schools, these teachers were also teaching basic academic subjects.
But he said they also teach students about taking up arms against the government and reportedly give lessons on the handling of firearms and related topics.
“They have many students, with some as young as nine-years old,” he said.
The Army official they are closely monitoring the school’s operations and have already identified the teachers and other persons involved.
He said they have coordinated with the local government and other concerned agencies for the closure of the school.
“We have ongoing operations in the area and this is part that. This school should not continue to operate,” he said.
The alleged NPA-run school in Malapatan is the first that they have monitored in Sarangani Province and the second within their area of responsibility.
Bogador they had also monitored a Lumad school run by the rebels at a village in Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur.
The Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion had called for closure of a Lumad school in a remote village in Banga, South Cotabato that is reportedly operated by NPA rebels and sympathizers.
Progressive groups have criticized moves by the military to close schools for Lumad around Mindanao as a form of harassment.
In 2015, a number of Lumad leaders in Mindanao were either killed or harassed allegedly by the military and paramilitary groups for operating schools accused of serving as communist fronts.
In an advisory Monday, the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns said Lumad students and teachers together with member organizations of Save Our Schools Network will hold a picket Tuesday in front of the Department of Education “to denounce the inaction of Secretary Briones on the continuing military attacks on Lumad community schools in Mindanao.”
It said the group will give Education Secretary Leonor Briones “a 2-week ultimatum to make a favorable move on such cases by revoking DepEd Memo 221 which blatantly allows elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to use schools for military purposes.” (MindaNews)