A humanitarian crisis again broke out in Talaingod, Davao del Norte as dozens of Lumad students, teachers and civilians fled from their community and trekked under the rain last night in fear of government soldiers and paramilitary who forcilby closed down their school.
At least 79 individuals, including 29 students and 12 teachers fled Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod after the forcible closure of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning School (STTICLCI) as part of the 56th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army’s (56IBPA) military operations in the area along with the notorius paramilitary group Alamara.
The Save Our Schools Network reported that as of six o’clock last night, the Alamara forcibly padlocked STTICLCI’s Sitio Dulyan campus, forcing the students, teachers and residents to flee from their community.
About 20 Alamara gunmen were seen loitering around the school’s vicinity, harassing students, teachers and locals as of eight o’clock last night, SOS said.
Meggie Nolasco, Executive Director of STTICLCI, condemned the forcible closure of the school, noting that this is the most recent in a series of attacks against indigenous schools in Mindanao.
“The ALAMARA and the 56th IBPA are criminals. What they did is a clear violation of the people’s right to education. This criminal act perpetrated by State forces is unconscionable,” Nolasco said.
“These schools were built through the initiative and solidarity of indigenous communities to provide education for their children; their efforts deemed necessary on account of years of government neglect,” she added.
Humanitarian mission attacked
The evacuees as well as members of the ongoing National Humanitarian Mission were blocked at Sitio Upaw and are being held by the said army unit, the Talaingod Philippine National Police and the Municipal Social Work and Development Office at Barangay Sto. Niño police station since arriving at about 9:30 last night.
ACT Teachers Party Representative France Castro and former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo are with the evacuees and refused to leave the police station until the victims are allowed to proceed to Davao City.
The mission wanted to bring food and other aid to the students after receiving receiving reports of the school’s closure by the military and Alamara.
Rep. Castro reported that their vehicle’s windshield was hit by a stone thrown by an unidentified suspect and gun shots were also fired while they were on their way to Sitio Sinilaban yesterday.
“Mabuti na lamang nakaharang ang windshield kaya hindi tumagos ang bato. At may nagpapaputok pa ng dalawang beses doon sa lugar namin,” Castro said.
Two other vehicles used by the mission suffered punctured tires due to spikes placed on the road, she revealed.
Castro added that when they tried to file a report with the Talaingod police, they were told that they will be the ones who will be subjected to an investigation instead.
“We are practically being detained here. What they are doing to us is already harassment,” Castro said.
Castro said that no one among those they contacted for help, including provincial officials and offices came to their aid.
The Lumad schools have been repeatedly maligned by the military and the paramilitary as schools put up by the revolutionary New People’s Army.
President Rodrigo Duterte also repeatedly ordered the indigenous peoples’ communities to close down their schools and leave their ancestral lands.
““Umalis kayo dyan, sabihin ko sa mga Lumad. Bobombahan ko iyan, isali ko iyang mga istraktura. I will use the Philippine Air Force,” Duterte said in a press conference after his 2017 State of the Nation Address. (Leave the area, I will tell the Lumad. I will bomb you, including the structures.)
The indigenous peoples in the area said the harassments they suffer are to pave the way for the entry of large-scale mining operations in their mineral-rich ancestral lands. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)