THE LAST YEAR of the Benigno S. Aquino presidency has meant a bloodbath for indigenous peoples and for Lumad education, two months after his State of the Nation Address where he gloated of figures that have purportedly addressed classroom shortages and increased the quality of Philippine education.
Emerito ‘Tatay Emok’ Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc. (ALCADEV) and a convenor of the Save Our Schools Network was killed by government-backed indigenous paramilitary forces. His body was found lying in a pool of blood, with stab wounds on his neck, and his throat slit. While Dionel Campos, chairperson of MAPASU (Persevering Struggle for Future Manobo Generations), and his cousin Aurelio “Bello” Sinzo, were strafed dead before the terrified community of Han-ayan, Lianga town, Surigao del Sur province.
The paramilitary group Magahat— armed, controlled, and commanded by the 36th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army— burned down the school cooperative building and threatened to massacre the entire community if they would not leave the area two days before the killing of the Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo in the morning of September 1, 2015.
The dastardly crime which was perpetrated at dawn and later carried out in broad daylight, terrified the erstwhile peaceful Manobo school and community. As of this writing, the number of evacuees in Caraga has swelled to 3,000 individuals or more than 500 families coming from the municipalities of San Miguel and Lianga, with some 70 families still lost in nearby forests.
The Philippine military’s attack on ALCADEV using indigenous paramilitaries is by far the gravest and most vicious violation of indigenous peoples’ right to education and constitutes a wholesale violation of children’s rights.
Moreover, as schools are an integral part of communities, the attack is an open declaration of the Philippine state’s war of annihilation against people’s organizations and communities resisting foreign largescale plunder of ancestral domains.
The 36th IB Philippine Army-Magahat rampage at the ALCADEV School shows that the Aquino government has dropped all pretenses of adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments. It also demonstrates the irrefutable crimes of the Philippine Army against indigenous children which the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and the Armed Conflict has continually glossed over, understated, or consistently concealed in its annual reports.
The Philippine government’s attacks on the ALCADEV School clearly shows its contempt towards self-determined development asserted by indigenous communities. Alternative Lumad schools are pushing for their own culturally-relevant pedagogy that liberates indigenous peoples from the yoke of institutionalized discrimination and corporate plunder of ancestral lands.
These Ethnocidal attacks on indigenous education, indigenous leaders and their staunch advocates and supporters are but the latest in a string of Aquino’s orders to tighten the noose on Lumad schools:
1. Since April of 2014 up to present, 25 Lumad schools and community schools were forced to halt operations for the entire month of June due to harassment by the AFP and sanctioned by the Department of Education (DepEd).
2. At least 84 cases of attacks on 57 community schools have displaced and disrupted the education of over 3, 000 Lumad children.
3. Three minors were brutally killed by the elements of 3rd Company of the1st Special Forces Battalion under the ground commander Capt. Balatbat with Col. Nasser Lidasan as Battalion Commander on August 19, 2015 in Pangatukan town, Bukidnon province. They were part of 5 Manobo tribals strafed and killed on suspicion of being NPA combatants.
4. The schooling of Lumad children under the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) was disrupted when residents of Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur were displaced. The victims were killed by an armed group led by Hasmin and elements of the 36th IBPA.
5. A Lumad child was among 14 farmers in White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon who were illegally detained and arrested by elements of 8th IB ug 23rd IB headed by Nicolas Rivera and an official named Tocmo. All were accused as members of the New People’s Army in contrast to the fact that they are members of organizations Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Culaman ( NAMABAW) and Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Arakan (TIKULPA). The Army threatened to burn down the MISFI-run (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated) school which offers 7th and 8th grade education in Sitio Dao, Bukidnon.
6. Adding to these abuses is the ongoing mass evacuation of the Talaingod Manobo people in Davao City since April of this year due to intensified military operations and threats from the terrorist paramilitary group ALAMARA. Around 1, 000 individuals from San Fernando Bukidnon, Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte have sought sanctuary at UCCP Haran, Davao City. Learners from Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc (STTILCI) in Talaingod have been holding their classes at the refugee camp since the evacuation started. Worse, three soldiers of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade raped a 14-year old Manobo grade 4 student of the Butay elementary school while conducting military operations in the area.
7. Last month, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao schools in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon have earlier reported harassments and threats from suspected state forces in the form of anonymous text messages, private message via facebook, and surveillances. In March 18, 2014, an RMP-NMR school grounds in Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur was strafed by 26th IB troops disrupting the graduation practice of the school. In Sarangani province, administrators and faculty of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS) which provides education to indigenous Blaan children have been filed with false criminal charges of serious illegal detention of evacuees and inciting to sedition.
The Aquino government should be held accountable for all these violations. It is responsible for the formation and arming of the paramilitary groups, the paving the way for the enty of largescale destructive projects in the ancestral domains, the sowing of disunity among IPs, and the killings that have claimed the lives of many.
The Save Our Schools Network demands Justice for Samarca, Campos, Sinzo and all victims of human rights abuses! End all forms of attacks on schools and communities!
Prof. Mae Fe Templa, MSW
Convenor, Save Our Schools Network