Briones asked to resign after DepEd order to close Lumad schools

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Oct) – The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network called on Education Secretary Leonor Briones to step down after her agency ordered last Tuesday the closure of 55 schools of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. in different towns in the Davao Region.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Rius Valle, SOS Mindanao spokesperson, said the “outrageous” closure of the Salugpongan schools proved that the DepEd had failed to uphold its mandate to “promote the right of our Lumad students to education, as well as their right to protection.”

He alleged that the secretary had allowed herself to become an instrument of the military for immediately releasing a decision without following the proper procedures.

“The DepEd has completed the full cycle of a systematic attack on schools—from military elements sowing terror in schools to government agencies declaring such schools as illegal,” he said.

Valle added that the closure was also an act of “economic and environmental plunder of Lumad communities” that would eventually result in sending the Lumad people from their communities to pave the way for the entry of “big mining companies to exploit and ransack their rich ancestral lands.”

“It deprives them of the opportunity to enhance and practice their indigenous knowledge on sustainable agriculture that they have been relying on for their subsistence,” he added

Eule Rico Bonganay, secretary-general of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, added that the order of the secretary had also shown that she lacked credibility and integrity.

“Child rights advocates definitely and vehemently reject her. Her order appends to her offenses and lapses as the secretary of DepEd, what with her corruption case and backlogs in providing the needed classrooms to students as per budget,” he added.

Last Tuesday, DepEd-Davao spokesperson Jenielito Atillo made the announcement following the recommendation of the fact-finding team created by the agency to look into the complaints of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and the response of the school management.

The resolution read in part: “It is with regret to inform you that all schools under the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanonon Community Learning Center, Inc. are hereby ordered closed. Conformably thereto, it is requested that all student records shall be turned over to the DepEd Schools Division Office for property custody.”

DepEd-Davao director Evelyn R. Fetalvero issued a suspension order against Salugpongan schools last July 10.

Atillo said among the grounds upon which the DepEd-Davao had based its findings included the alleged non-compliance of the schools with the curriculum standards set by DepEd-Davao; taking the Lumad students away from their home without the consent of their parents and used them to generate funds by making them perform the plight of the Lumad, in violation of the DepEd’s child protection policy; teachers of Salugpongan are not passers of the Licensure Exam for Teachers; Salugpongan has been operating within the ancestral domain of the IP community without obtaining the mandatory free and prior informed consent of the concerned IP communities and certification precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; some students of Salugpongan do not have Learners Reference Number, in violation of the requirement under DepEd Order No. 26 s. series 2015; and Salugpongan has misrepresented its enrolment data in that the data contained in the documents it submitted do not match with the data found in the Learners Information System. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)