Army units harass Lumad mentors on World Teachers’ Day

Two teachers of Lumad schools in far south Mindanao were harassed by Philippine Army Units last October 5, World Teachers’ Day, an indigenous peoples’ rights group reported.

In a statement, the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking and Services Inc. (CLANS) said volunteer teacher Aubrey Masalon was arrested Thursday by the 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Sitio Lamsalo, Brgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province, along with husband Nestor and another community leader.

On the same day, 27th IB soldiers swooped down on Purok Tadluga, Sitio Salaubon, Brgy. Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato to look for volunteer teacher Famela Taplan they reportedly accused of being a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“We vehemently condemn these ongoing harassment by the 73rd and 27th Infantry Battalions against the two volunteer teachers of the CLANS Community Schools on World Teachers Day last October 5 no less,” the group said.

Earlier, on October 4, the 73rd IB allegedly illegally arrested and detained four community leaders  in Sitio Datal Kampong, Malapatan town.

Also last October 2, Taplan was summoned by Brgy. Upper Sepaka chairperson Pudi Ambalgan for a supposed meeting on the CLANS school’s permit.

She failed to attend but was later informed her school was accused of being an NPA front and that she had to “clear her name” at the local police station on October 4.

Taplan chose to proceed to the CLANS headquarters in General Santos City instead after a local official failed to accompany her to the police station as promised.

CLANS said Taplan’s sitio leader Romeo A. Queliste is willing to attest to her work as a volunteer teacher in their community.

“After the forcible closure of 33 CLANS schools, the escalating attacks against Lumad teachers and students are direct results of President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao,” CLANS said.

“These incidents show that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Duterte himself are bent on suppressing the Lumads’ struggle to defend their ancestral domain,” the group added.

CLANS called on the Duterte government to lift martial law in Mindanao and resume formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines “for the Lumad and the Filipino people to achieve just and lasting peace.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)