DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 July) – Around 1,100 Lumad students affected by the suspension order issued last Friday against 55 schools operated by the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. will be accommodated in public schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao Region assured on Monday.
DepEd-Region 11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo told a press conference they had already directed the Salugpongan to facilitate the transfer of the students from their campuses in different provinces in Davao Region to the nearest public schools.
He said the new public schools, built in Lumad communities, had been instructed to accommodate Lumad children even if they could not present requirements for admission.
“We will also be doing everything that we can do just to make sure that all of these children will be accepted. We will accept them even without credentials. Basta mo-ingon sila nga gikan koana nga schools (For as long they say they come from those schools, no question asked, we will accept them),” he said.
Atillo said a total of 144 schools in different Lumad communities catering to 9,111 students had been built as of July 15, 2019. Of the total, 32 schools are in Davao Oriental, 8 in Compostela Valley, 43 in Davao Del Norte, 20 in Davao Occidental and 41 Davao City.
He said DepEd-Region 11 would also welcome the teachers from the Salugpongan to apply as public school teachers but they would be subject to the regular application process as other applicants.
“We will be very willing to cater to them as applicants kay dili man pud pwede i-shortcut kay diha sila gikan og naapektuhan sila gumikan sa maong suspension og atoa balion ang policy, dili pud na pwede (we cannot shorten the application in their favor. We cannot change the policy just because they are affected. It cannot be),” he said.
Citing the report submitted by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., DepEd regional director Evelyn R. Fetalvero said in her July 10 order that the Salugpongan schools had been suspended for failing to teach in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the DepEd, using the children in rallies, and teaching the pupils an anti-government ideology.
Fetalvero was acting on the report submitted by Esperon, also the vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which was accompanied by an affidavit from a certain Melvin M. Loyod, who claimed to have volunteered as a teacher at Salugpongan in Sitio Pongpong, Barangay Sto. Niño, Talaingod, Davao Del Norte after graduating Grade 12.
All pending applications for renewal of the government permits of the Salugpongan are likewise suspended, according to Atillo.
He said Salugpongan had been ordered to submit a “show cause” within five days upon receipt of the order or until July 17, explaining why their permit to operate should not be revoked.
Atty. Arvin Antonio V. Ortiz, DepEd-Region 11 legal officer, said “show cause” gave the Salugpongan an opportunity to respond to the allegations of the military before coming out with a decision whether to close the schools or not.
He said failure to submit an explanation will force the agency to “decide on the matter on the basis of available evidence” presented to the DepEd by the military.
On Sunday, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network expressed alarm over the suspension of the 55 Salugpongan schools on the basis of a military report.
The group said it was appalled by how DepEd had “reduced itself as a stamp pad for the military who have targeted the closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao” by failing to protect and uphold the children’s right to education.
It added the SOS criticized Education Secretary Leonor Briones for not accepting their invitation to hold a dialogue with the school representatives to know the plight of the Lumad.
“We are surprised to receive this order as we have been persistent in complying with all the necessary requirements stated in the guidelines for schools for indigenous people and are in constant communication with the DepEd Region 11 Office regarding the release of our permit to operate,” the Salugpongan Learning Center said in its Facebook page on Saturday.
It said it will “challenge the accusations made by Esperon which served as basis for DepEd’s order. Mr. Esperon has again resorted to fabricated accusations and red-tagging to justify the closure of Lumad schools.”
It said it will appeal the suspension of the 55 schools within the five days given to them by DepEd.
“We are saddened that the government’s mandate to recognize and uphold the right of the Lumad to education and self-determination is superseded by a militaristic approach that further marginalizes the Lumad.
“Education is an issue that directly concerns the public. We appeal to the public to support the Lumad children and their right to education and to oppose the injustice depriving them of this right,” it added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)