72 schools for Lumad remain closed

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 20 June) – Seventy-two schools for Lumad or indigenous peoples in Mindanao have remained closed two weeks after the start of classes due to alleged military presence and harassment, a group said on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Save Our Schools Network (SOS) blamed the continued closure on the military’s “all-out war” against the New People’s Army (NPA) and Lumad communities.

SOS was reacting to the statement of Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Edgar Arevalo, who denied accusations they wanted to abort the peace talks between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) so they could continue with their military operations against the NPA.

Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) air their concerns against attacks on “schools, communities and people” during the protesat action on 21 September 2017 in Davao City. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued the same denial to media.

“Whether they call it all-out war or all-out peace, the fact is 72 Lumad schools all over Mindanao have not begun their classes because of military encampment and harassment in their communities,” said SOS spokesperson Rius Valle.

“If they say there is no all-out war against the NPA, then it is because they have an ‘all-out war’ against the Lumad schools and communities,” he added.

SOS said among the Lumad schools that have remained closed are those in Lianga, Surigao del Sur; Compostela, Compostela Valley; Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Sultan Kudarat.

It said 2,000 Lumad students are not in schools due to the closure.

On Thursday last week, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced that President Duterte cancelled the talks scheduled on June 28-30 with the NDFP in Oslo, Norway because government wanted to hold consultations with stakeholders before forging agreements with the revolutionary group.

Dureza said getting the inputs of stakeholders will ensure that the agreements would have the people’s support.

But in a statement on Monday the Communist Party of the Philippines called Duterte’s reason for cancelling the talks “a thin veil that fails to conceal his real aims.”

The CPPclaimed that the president’s decision came “after being briefed on the status of Oplan Kapayapaan in a meeting with the top brass of the AFP and defense officials. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has publicly announced that the military wants 3-6 more months before Duterte resumes talks with the NDFP.”(MindaNews)