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On the Disinformation and Harassment Against ‘Tu Pug Imatuy’

By the Concerned Artists of the Philippines

We condemn the uploading of black propaganda against the film Tu Pug Imatuy (2017), directed by Arnel Barbarona who is a member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Set in Mindanao, Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill) revolves around the story of Manobo couple caught amidst anti-insurgency operations by the Philippine military in a community targetted for mining operations, inspired by a lumad’s actual account of similar events in the region. A notable work of independent, regional, and progressive cinema, the acclaimed film recently completed a series of screenings since its premiere and successive wins at the Sinag Maynila 2017 Film Festival, the Gawad Urian, and the Famas awards.

On September 21, an anonymously-produced video was uploaded and shared via Facebook. It branded Tu Puy Imatuy as a “deceptive indie film” full of untruths and with ties to the CPP-NDF-NPA. The video used film clips, obviously without permission from the filmmaker. It was flagged but continues to be uploaded across other fake news sites. Barbarona also noted a recent incident that points to the possibility of him being surveilled.

The release of such black propaganda is an assault on freedom of expression and the freedom of the artist to critique, reflect or respond to social realities. This sends the message that artistic and creative works that contradict the narrative of the Duterte administration can and will be attacked with impunity.

These acts of vilification on social media happen at a time when alarmist spectres are peddled to discredit criticism of the current economic crisis and political repression in the Philippines. These are no different from the Palace’s and the military’s singling out of critics or advocates from other sectors as “terrorists” and targets for harassment or worse. The Presidential Communications Operations Office, through Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, promotes the spread of dangerous disinformation. For, for instance, it interviewed supposed lumad leaders who want the peace talks scrapped and condemn alleged CPP-NPA killings of “legitimate” leaders—claims that are strongly contested by people’s organizations on the ground.

These cases of red baiting and surveillance are a dangerous throwback to the repression and proliferation of lies, rife during the Marcos dictatorship. Let us not not wait for these to escalate into full-blown harassment of artists and cultural workers or for such black propaganda to become normalized. We call upon our colleagues in the film industry to speak up against the incident and the wider phenomenon of McCarthyist red-baiting of dissent.

Stop the attacks on artists and cultural workers.
Stop the attacks on lumad and indigenous peoples communities.
Stop the attacks on the Filipino people.

‘Tu Pug Imatuy?’

ni Rene Boy Abiva

 

Kung sukdulan na ang pagka-alipin

mainam pa’y tupdin

ng kaluluwa, bisig at kamao

ang pinakamatayog na tungkuin

ng bawat tao

sa mundo.

 

‘Sing linaw ng tubig sa bukal

ang utos ng Maykapal

sa Lumang Tipan

na ang tanging kabayaran

sa lahat ng lumalapastangan

sa tao, hayop at kalikasan,

sa buong santinakpan

ay ‘alang iba kundi kamatayan.

 

‘Sing talas ng palaso ni Achilles

ang katwiran ng mga Dakilang Pantas

sa ating kasaysayan.

Naririyan si Rousseau ng Pransya

si Locke ng Britanya

si Lincoln ng Amerika

at si Marx ng Alemanya

o ng sarili nating si Rizal ng Calamba

Bonifacio ng Tondo

Datu Paking ng Lake Sebu

at Parago ng Paquibato .

Na kung ganap naman nang tinalikdan

ng mga nahalal at naatasang mamuno

sa yaman at lakas ng buong bayan

ay nangagsipagtaksil sa taumbayan,

marapat ang mag-aklas!

at sila’y patalsikin,

usigin,

hulihin at litisin silang mga taksil

at iharap sila sa tunay na hukom

at ipatikim at iparanas sa kanilang kaluluwa

ang kabayaran ng kanilang kataksilan:

‘sang mapait na kamatayan

sa ngipin ng panabas at guillotine. 

 

‘Sing tatag ‘to ng paninindigan ni Ka Simon

umaalimbukay at nagniningas na gaya sa ‘sang pugon.

 

Agosto 14, 2018

Lunsod ng Queson, Maynila

 

*ang salitang Tu Pug Imatuy ay mula sa wika ng mga Lumad ng Mindanao na ang ibig sabihin ay The Right To Kill.

AFP, PNP enforce another food blockade against Lianga evacuees

The Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are enforcing another food blockade against the Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, a human rights group reported.

The 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (75th IBPA) as well as the local PNP blocked food aid brought by Church groups at around 11:30 AM, Karapatan Caraga said in an alert Wednesday, July 18.

Troopers have also been deployed around the Barangay Diatagon Gymnasium where the evacuees have stayed since their forced evacuation Monday, the group said.

“We should not tolerate the bakwit (evacuees) so that they will be forced to go back to their community,” the soldiers reportedly told the donors in Cebuano.

The soldiers erected a checkpoint by the national highway leading to Diatagon gym to prevent motorcycles carrying food items bought from the town market passing through the blockade, the group added.

“[The 75th IBPA and the PNP] threaten(ed) to arrest non-Lianga residents who are extending humanitarian support for about 1600 Manobo evacuees [are],” the group said.

The same army unit has also implemented a similar blockade when the Lumad evacuated last January.

The Lumad were forced to evacuate from their communities 33 days after the military put up detachments and encamped at Kilometer 9 of the said barangay.

Tandag Bishop Raul Dael (center, with pectoral cross) visit the Lumad evacuees at Diatagon. (Kasalo Caraga photo)

Bishop visits evacuees

In a separate announcement, Lumad organization Kasalo Caraga said Roman Catholic Bishop Raul Dael as well as nuns of the Diocese of Tandag visited Diatagon Wednesday night to offer support to the evacuees.

Kasalo said the prelate were able to talk to Barangay Diatagon Chairperson Metong and leaders of the local Lumad organization Mapasu during their visit.

The barangay captain admitted he was pressured by the military to sign Barangay Resolution 11-2018 allowing the establishment of a military detachment in Km 9, forcing the Lumad to eventually evacuate, Kasalo said.

The barangay leader promised to review the said resolution, the group added.

Lumad evacuees sleeping in very crowded conditions. (Photo by Chad Booc)

Harassments

Karapatan Caraga said that aside from intimidating the evacuees, the army troopers also harassed the Manobo women, asking “Kinsa ang mga ababe nga pwedeng bayran diri?” (Who are the women that we can buy here?)

The evacuees also complain of lack of water and sanitation facilities at the gym arousing fears of a health crisis.

The Lumad said their resistance to five coal mining contracts in the Andap Valley Complex have made them targets of intense militarization of their communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP slams Army unit, LGU

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned a military unit that tried to prevent Davao City-based journalists from covering the evacuation of about 2,000 Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur Monday, July 16.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the NUJP said it strongly condemns the 4th Civic Military Operation (4th CMO) Battalion of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that stopped the vehicle carrying five journalists from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Radyo ni Juan Network, Kilab Multimedia, The Breakaway Media and Davao Today at about 11 o’clock Monday at Kilometer 3, Sitio Neptune in Diatagon, Lianga.

A Major Jerson Igloria, battalion ground commander manning the checkpoint, told the reporters not to proceed to where the evacuees were gathered and was heard asking, “Sino yang nasa loob ng sasakyan? Mga illegal yan? ‘Di lumabas.” (Who are those inside the vehicles? Are they illegal? Why are they not alighting?)

Inquirer correspondent Barry Dacanay then alighted and tried to go near the approaching evacuees but was stopped by Igloria who told him, Sir, doon ka lang. Respetohay lang ta.” (Sir, just stay away. Let us respect each other.)

The Army officer then ordered the journalists to first secure a permit from the Lianga Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Office before they would be allowed to cover the evacuation.

“Hintayin niyo yung MSWD kung papayagan kayo,” Maj. Igloria told them, claiming the place was an “ambush area” and therefore dangerous. (Just wait for the MSWD if it would allow you.)

A 4th CMO trooper interrogates a journalist at a checkpoint in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. (The Breakaway Media photo)

The journalists sought permission from the Lianga MSWD but were refused without explanation.

Asked later by local reporters about their refusal, Lianga MSWD officer Melita Encenzo denied forbidding the Davao journalists from proceeding to where the evacuees were.

“They just need to seek permission from the MSWDO or the barangays officials, just so we know who visits our area of responbility,” Encenzo reportedly said.

The journalists nevertheless managed to take photos and videos as well as conduct interviews when the evacuees reached the national highway.

The NUJP however said that both the military and the MSWD had no right in trying to prevent the Davao journalists from covering the Lumad evacuation.

“We stress that, in the absence of clear and present danger, neither the Army, MSWD, or any government agency has the authority to prevent any Filipino citizen from enjoying the freedom to travel and, in this case, stop journalists from covering what is clearly an event of utmost public interest and concern,” NUJP said.

The group said that even if it was dangerous, it is precisely the military’s mandate to protect civilians such as the journalists and the evacuees they were covering.

It also scored the MSWD for trying to prevent coverage of the evacuees’ plight and depriving them of assistance by withholding information that could help solicit more aid for the Lumad.

“Martial law [in Mindanao] does not justify the arbitrary restriction on coverage of the Lumad evacuation, unless, of course, we have ceased to be a democracy. What happened was a clearly unconstitutional violation of press freedom and, more importantly, of the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military encampment forces Manobos to evacuate anew

Evacuees were confronted by the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Military operations by the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army drove more than a thousand Manobo Lumad to evacuate anew in Surigao del Sur Province Monday, July 16.

At least 1,607 Manobos from 11 communities of Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town and three communities from Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin town were forced to evacuate due to the encampment of the 75th IBPA in their communities since June 14, 2018, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said in an alert.

Alternative multimedia group The Breakaway Media also reported that the evacuees started their march from their communities at six o’clock in the morning and arrived at Barangay Diatogon’s Gymnasium at two o’clock in the afternoon.

A military checkpoint tried to prevent the evacuees from reaching the national highway as well as media workers from covering the evacuation, SOS said.

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (SOS Network photo)

In their fourth forced evacuation under the Rodrigo Duterte government, the Manobos complain of human rights abuses by the military, including sexual harassment of women and teenagers.

Lianga Manobos have also evacuated in July and November last year and January this year due to intensified military operations.

The Lumad also complain of forced recruitment of Manobo men to the military’s Civilian Auxiliary Geographical Unit as well as threats, harassments, and intimidation of Lumad school students in Sitio Simowao in Barangay Diatogon.

Among the evacuees are 568 learners of the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, award-winning alternative schools for the indigenous Lumad.

The Save Our Schools Network also said the military threatened to file criminal charges against the Lumad leaders if they pushed through with their evacuation.

The Lumad said heavy military presence at the Andap Valley complex is to pave the way for the extraction of coal from their ancestral domain by mining giants Benguet Corp., Great Wall Mining and Abacus Coal.

Andap Valley is said to hold the biggest bulk of coal reserves in the country.

The Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has yet to issue a statement on the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (The Breakaway Media photo)

Higaonons to Villanueva: ‘We need land, not money’

By LITO RULONA/Mindanao Gold Star Daily

Cagayan de Oro City–TWO indigenes’ organizations over the weekend lashed out at 4th Infantry Division commander Ronald Villanueva in response to his accusation that Higaonon evacuees from Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental were paid to camp out at the capitol grounds here.

In a statement, the groups Tagtabulon and  Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization described Maj. Gen. Villanueva’s accusation as  “laughable” and “uninformed, brainless, heartless joke that could only come from their worldview that revolves around monetized appreciation of the world.”

“We do not need money. We need our land,” said Tagtabulon spokesperson Sariza Acosta.

The groups said Villanueva’s accusation that the evacuees were paid reflected the view that everything comes with a price and that anyone can become paid mercenaries.

Gen. R. Villanueva of the 4th IDPA. (Mindanao Gold Star Daily photo)

“Simply because money is their motivation for everything doesn’t mean it is also the same for the Lumad,” reads part of the statement signed by Acosta, Tagtabulon chairman Reynaldo Ayuma and Kalumbay chairman Jomorito Goaynon.

They added: “We have been subsistence farmers, taking only from our territories what we need, nothing in excess, nothing for gain. Our principles are based on our harmonious relationship with our environment. We do not depend on anybody because we are able to provide for our families. That is, when we are in our territories, we are able to freely access our resources.”

They said ancestral land was being taken away from the Higaonons in the hinterlands of Misamis Oriental, and “now they charge us of being paid evacuees.”

Tagtabulon and Kalumbay said they now realize that it has become a futile exercise to challenge the government to understand the Higaonon people’s development framework.

“The framework of the military is their high salaries — the bonuses that the government is giving them, the cash incentives given to them every time they are able to report a ‘surrenderer.’ Because they could not encash anything from our member communities, they are attacking us,” the groups added.

“We do not need money to protect our ancestral domains. It is like being paid to protect our lives, our families. It is highly illogical for us. We do not appreciate their logic of cash. And we do not intend to understand it. Our relationship with the land cannot be bought. Our lands are invaluable to us. Our principles come without a price.”

The two organizations said that if the lives of Higaonons “are so cheap that it can be bought with salaries, do not liken us to you. We have no respect for your kind of ‘defenders.’”

Last week, Villanueva said the indigenes were paid and were being exploited by the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army. #

(This article on Mindanao Gold Star Daily is republished by Kodao with permission.)

Group reports new attacks against Lumad communities, schools

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.

A Lumad’s house occupied by AFP troopers. (SOS photo)

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.#

Warrior chieftain hostaged and tricked to surrender, Lumad say

The reported surrender of a legendary tribal leader last June 9 in Talaingod, Davao del Norte was an orchestrated gathering by the military that victimized the ailing and elderly chieftain, Lumad organizations and leaders said.

Lumad organizations Salupongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region said Datu Guibang Apoga, who led the Manobo’s successful resistance against logging and mining operations at the Pantaron Mountain Range, did not surrender nor spoke of giving up their struggle to defend their ancestral land.

“In his speech delivered at the assembly, Datu Guibang Apoga spoke of his desire for the Lumad schools to continue to serve his people. Owing to his failing health and increasing age, he spoke of what he perceived as his inadequacies as the tribe’s tribal chieftain,” Salupongan said in a statement.

“Nowhere in his brief discourse did he speak of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of his tribe and his people,” the group added.

The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) said Apoga was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who has defected to the military by turning over his M16 rifle to Brigadier General Ernesto C Torres Jr AFP, Commander of the 1003rd Brigade during the ceremony.

Five hundred Lumads witnessed the event, the military said.

“After more than two decades of being ‘out’ and having been legendary among his circle for his political efforts in supporting the NPA, Datu Gibang is now back to Nasilaban. His surrender would definitely hasten the clearing of areas in and around Talaingod from CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA influence,” the 10th IDPA added.

Pasaka chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, however, said Apoga was lured into attending an assembly of about 150 Lumad only, orchestrated by the paramilitary group Alamara and the military.

Fanagel said Apoga was “hostaged and pressured” by the overwhelming presence of the military.

A downcast Datu Guibang presenting a rifle to a group of euphoric army officers. (Philippine Army photo)

“In his brief speech, Datu Guibang never said mining operations may already be allowed on Pantaron and their Lumad schools should already be closed,” Fanagel told Kodao, quoting Salupongan council officers and members present at the event.

Fanagel said Rural Missionaries of the Philippines paramedics tried to approach Apoga to give him a physical check up but the octogenarian chieftain was constantly surrounded by the military.

Fanagel added that based on the chieftain’s medical history, they suspect Apoga to be suffering from a kidney ailment.

Apoga and other Manobo chieftains in Talaingod launched a pangayaw (a tribal war) in 1993 to prevent logging operations by the Alcantara & Sons (Alsons) corporation.

Apoga and the other datu (chieftain) formed the Salupongan ‘Ta Igkanugon (Unity for the Defense of Ancestral Land) fought off Alsons’s private army and the military with native weapons and old rifles and won.

The government, however, ordered the arrest of Apoga and 25 other datus and have since been hunted by the military, until June 9.

Salupongan said the government has failed to sway its members by deceiving Apoga into attending a tribal assembly that turned into a fake surrender ceremony.

“[The government] has grown desperate in quelling our ranks in the last few months, first by pouring an overwhelming number of state forces in our lands by three Army battalions, second by campaigning for the closure of community schools and harassing community teachers, students and parents, and third by finagling Datu Guibang as a surrendered leader,” Salupongan said.

Apoga (center, third row) looking sullen as a military officer leads a collective reading of an oath. (Philippine Army photo)

Apoga’s fellow Talaingod chieftain, Bai Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay said the military and the paramilitary Alamara used Apoga’s frail health and advanced age into “pressuring” him to a “staged surrender ceremony.”

In a statement, Bibiyaon rallied the Manobo people to remain unfaltering in defending the Pantaron Range, reminding them of their decades of resistance against military operations from Alsa Lumad and Alamara since the 1990s.

“Many more leaders from among our people who continue to suffer from hunger, government neglect and military abuses will rise to continue Salugpongan’s legacy of resistance. Hence, to all the Manobo and lumad people, our resolve must remain unfaltering like the Pantaron on which generations of our people have lived and depended on for generations,” Bibiyaon said.

“We must prevail for as long as the causes of our oppression continue to persist and deny us of the right to live with dignity,” Bibiyaon said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Higaonon evacuees face harassments in Cagayan de Oro

[UPDATED] Lumad evacuees encamped at the Misamis Oriental capitol grounds were harassed Wednesday night by men who introduced themselves as Cagayan de Oro City information officers, playing loud music and showing films produced by the military.

In alerts posted online by supporters, two men were seen operating a movie screen while loud music was blasting against the evacuation site apparently aimed at intimidating the evacuees.

A source from Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization told Kodao that when confronted by the leaders of the evacuees, the men said they were personnel of the Cagayan de Oro city information office, which in turn was ordered by the provincial government of Misamis Oriental to set up the movie and sound system.

When Kalumbay inquired with the provincial government, it denied issuing such an order, the source added.

Another source told Kodao the city government has denied they had anything to do with the incident.

The Kalumbay source said that while the two men were setting up their equipment, a woman, who introduced herself as a city government social worker, made the rounds among the evacuees handing out biscuits and juice.

“Upon hindsight, the woman appeared to have been diverting the evacuees’ attention from the two men,” the source said.

The evacuees suspect the woman is a police personnel, having been previously seen during Lumad rallies in the city, the source added.

Subsequent Facebook posts by supporters also said military and police elements have encircled the evacuation site throughout the night.

On Tuesday night, a nine-year old evacuee was abducted and nearly raped by two unidentified men but managed to escape.

The victim’s mother is not interested in filing a report with the police, local newspaper reports said.

Meanwhile, the military has accused the evacuees of being used by so-called anti-government groups for staging the evacuation.

Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division spokesperson 1st Lieutenant Tere Ingente told local reporters the evacuees must go home and not allow themselves to “be used by organizations as propaganda to advance their own self-serving agenda.”

Around 35 Higaonon families has again put up an evacuation center at the capitol grounds after troopers of the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army has occupied their homes in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

One hundred and fifty-eight evacuees left their homes last May 26 and first set up camp at Lagonglong town proper last May 29 after days of trekking.

It is the community’s sixth forced evacuation since 2015.

The Higaonons believe that the intensified military operations aim to drive them away from their ancestral lands which cover parts of Mt. Balatukan and facilitate the entry of large-scale mining companies and agribusiness plantations, Lumad organization Katungod earlier said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lumad schools face harassments as new school year opens

Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Talangingod, Davao del Norte said at least five of their campuses have either been occupied or are being harassed by government as the new school year opened today.

“Military troops have occupied our schools and conducted roving operations that hamper our members’ [work for] the start of our preparation since early last week,” Lumad school teacher Joan Esperancilla in a statement said.

At STTICLC’s Tibucag campus in Barangay Dagohoy, about 20 soldiers of the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion camped inside the school since May 29.

In Sitio KM 30, Barangay Dagohoy, about 25 soldiers in full battle gear had been conducting patrols around the STTICLC school while occupying six houses in the community, Lumad teachers reported.

In Sitio KM 17 also in Barangay Dagohoy, about 23 soldiers camped at the Lumad school but eventually left when confronted by the teacher.

In Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil, more than 40 soldiers had set camp inside the Lumad school campus.

On June 3 in Sitio Nasilaban, also in Barangay Palma Gil, armed soldiers entered the campus and interrupted the students and teachers cleaning the school and asked for the whereabouts of other teachers.

Throughout the week, soldiers put up checkpoints along roads going to the communities targeting Lumad school teachers, STTICLC said.

During the Sitio Nasilaban school’s flag ceremony Monday morning, students noticed a flying machine they suspect is a military drone hovering above them.

Soldiers then arrived and ordered the students to harvest vegetables and bring the produce directly to the nearby military camp, STTILCI said.

STTILCI said the incidents have affected 241 students and 11 teachers in five campuses.

“STTILCI condemns the intimidation of the military and paramilitary forces against our teachers, students and community members in Talaingod, Davao del Norte at the opening of this school year,” the group said.

AFP soldiers occupying a Lumad school. (SOS photo)

New school year, old problems

The Save our Schools (SOS) Network said it is not only the Lumad Schools in Talaingod that face the same old problems.

At the “Bakwit School” in Haran, Davao City, Lumad students from Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte started another school year away from their community.

Lumad schoolteacher Ricky Balilid said they had been teaching the students at the evacuation center since 2015 as the threats from the paramilitary Alamara continue to hound them.

“The Alamara have looked at our school with suspicion that this is a New People’s Army school. And they have intimidated teachers, parents and even students from attending this school,” Balilid said.

Many Lumad schools set up and ran by religious groups or non-government organizations all over Mindanao suffer the same situation, SOS said.

In all, 56 schools have been forcibly closed and 18 others destroyed last school year from military and paramilitary attacks, forcing 2,000 children to stop their schooling.

There had also been 2,300 students and teachers harassed by the paramilitary and soldiers, including incidents of being forced to be included in the fake list of NPA surrenderees, the group said.

“It is sad that, while Lumad schools are helping the government and Department of Education (DepEd) in providing education opportunities for the Lumad children, they are not getting help. Instead, they are getting attacked for helping the Lumads,” SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said.

The SOS said Lumad schools have been partners with the DepEd in implementing Indigenous People’s Education Program (IPED) for the past years.

This is proof that Lumad schools are legitimate and carry DepEd programs that serve to combat illiteracy, Valle said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)