Soldiers, paramilitary men accused of threatening teachers, students of Lumad school

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 June) – Teachers and students of a school for Lumad in Davao del Norte have been prevented from holding classes since June 5 by soldiers and paramilitary men, one of the teachers said.

In a press conference Monday, Ricky Balilid, a teacher at Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy accused soldiers and Alamara members of blocking and threatening their teachers and students they would be shot if they went back to their community.

MISFI Academy is located in Sitio Muling, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte and has around 100 students.

Balilid, Association of Community Educators vice chairperson said they reported the incident to the local government of Kapalong and to the Department of Education division office in Tagum City early this month but there has been no response yet.

He called on President Rodrigo Duterte for help.

“We want President Duterte to go to the communities and negotiate with them just like he did before. We want negotiation to happen among the people, soldiers, and the paramilitary,” he said in the vernacular.

He said the four MISFI teachers could not hold classes for fear of their lives and are staying, for the meantime, at their office in Barangay Indangan in Davao City while waiting for the Alamara and soldiers to move out.

“Before you enter the community in Muling, you have to pass through the Alamara. I have experienced being approached by them,” he added.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, public information officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said that they sought permission from the tribal leader before entering their community.

He maintained that the soldiers ensured they conform to the Lumad’s tradition and sometimes would even offer rituals, if necessary.

“We undergo a process before entering the ancestral domain, we coordinate with the tribal leaders,” he said.

He said the teachers should formalize their complaints by reporting it to the military, so that it can be addressed in the “proper “forum”.

Jong Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, said members of the paramilitary group are Lumad who are armed by the military.

Balilid said the military continues to label their school and their teachers as that of the New People’s Army (NPA).

But he maintained that the school is run by the Lumad to educate the children of the indigenous community.

He said the military has not left their community since 2015.

The year 2015 saw the killings of several Lumad leaders allegedly by soldiers and paramilitary groups. The victims were accused of having links with the communist movement.

The NPA was also tagged in the death of Lumad leaders with alleged ties to the military. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)