by April Burcer
An indigenous peoples’ organization again called on the Rodrigo Duterte government to stop harassments of Lumads following reports of new attacks on communities in the CARAGA, Socksargen and Southern Mindanao region by the military.
Save our Schools (SOS) spokesperson in Mindanao Rius Valle said 122 Mamanwa Lumad families forcibly evacuated last June 12 after soldiers encamped in their communities and refused entry of a relief and humanitarian service by church organizations.
Three days later, the Salugpongan Community Learning Center of Compostela Valley reported that three Lumad families were summoned to the military camp in Barangay San Miguel, New Bataan and were forced to surrender as members of the New People’s Army.
“There’s at least 80 people who have allegedly surrendered to the military. Those who voluntarily surrendered were threatened that if they don’t sign or surrender on their own, they will be jailed, which is possible because of Martial Law when a warrant of arrest does not necessarily have to be issued. Students are also prevented from going to school,” Valle said in an interview.
Military also encamped near the CLANS Lumad Community School in Sultan Kudarat and were asking for the whereabouts of volunteer teachers, another SOS alert said.
“SOCCSKSARGEN has the most number of closed schools. What the military does is that they go to Lumad schools who are still operating and look for their teachers. It was a coincidence that the teachers were currently processing their Permit to Operate from the Department of Education and the military did not find any teacher present. So they bribed the children with 100 Pesos just know where the teachers are,” Valle narrated.
SOS, teachers and members of the network in General Santos are set to organize a Quick Response Team (QRT) to help threatened Lumad communities.
“We are constantly monitoring everything. We don’t have any updates yet regarding the recent attacks because of poor signal. We’re still waiting for text messages from the teachers, but in SOCCSKSARGEN, we’re coordinating a QRT,” Valle said.
56 down, how many more to go?
According to the SOS, 56 Lumad schools all over Mindanao failed to start their classes this month because of the increasing attacks by the military.
The number is still growing as they are still waiting for reports from schools in Mindanao to confirm if they are still operating or not, Valle said.
“We are still consolidating the numbers because some of the communities can’t be reached. That’s not the final tally because there are still several communities who are yet to send in their reports, including Bukidnon, North Cotabato and Surigao,” he added.
Valle said that for the attacks to end, Duterte must first lift martial law to end in Mindanao.
Valle added that the Lumads are asking the public to support the Lumads’ right to education.
“Let us create activities that would spread awareness about the heightened military attacks on schools in Mindanao,” he added.#