In a press conference “Balik Komunidad, Balik Eskwela” (Back to communties, Back to school) held on June 6 in the University of the Philippines – Diliman, the Save Our Schools Network National, together with the UP Diliman Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan and Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Dr. Nestor Castro, sounded a gong to symbolize the start of classes of Lumad school in their communities and evacuation center and urged incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to realize genuine change for the Lumad children and their communities.
Classes in Lumad schools are now starting in many of the indigenous communities in Mindanao. However, classes will also start in various evacuation centers like those in the Haran compound in Davao City and the Tandag Sports Complex in Tandag City. “We salute the perseverance of our teachers, students, parents and the community members in their effort to continue classes in the evacuation centers. But we hope that in the coming weeks, President Duterte who has supported the Lumad in the past, will expedite the safe return of the evacuees in our communities and resume the operation of our schools,” said Kakay Tolentino, council member of KATRIBU and National Coordinator of the BAI Indigenous Women’s Network.
From July 2010 to up to May 2016, at least 54 cases of forced evacuation affected lumad communities. Classes of Lumad established schools were repeatedly disrupted by the military operations. Some of the Lumad schools were forced to resume their classes and conduct their moving up and graduation ceremonies in the evacuation centers. To date, there are still around 4000 Lumad in evacuation centers due to the continued military operations in communities and encampment of schools. Since last year, over 1000 Lumad students held their classes in makeshift classrooms at the Haran compound and Tandag Sports Complex.
“The BS Aquino regime devastated our livelihood and attacked our schools thru its counter-insurgency program ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ that targeted not only the armed revolutionary movement but our legitimate organizations and resistance against the plunder of our lands by big mining and other business interests. As a result, at least 90 indigenous peoples, our leaders and educators who were promoting our culture and right to education and livelihood were extrajudicially killed,” said Tolentino.
“We call upon President Duterte to immediately bring the Lumad evacuees safely home. We appeal to him to direct the immediate pullout of the military from the communities, dismantle the paramilitary groups, arrest the perpetrators of the gross human right violations, and to drop the trumped up charges against our leaders,” said Tolentino.
“We hope that Duterte would continue to recognize, support and act immediately in favor of our schools. Indigenous communities for a long time have been neglected by the state. By our initiative and with the support of church institutions and IP rights, we started and developed our functional literacy and numeracy schools. Our schools uphold the right to education of our people and embody the assertion of our right to self-determination. Any attack to these institutions is an affront not only to our rights as individuals but to our collective right as a people,” added Tolentino.
As continuing support, the SOS Network in UP Diliman resounded the plight and demands of the lumad communities and invited other academic institutions to support the lumad schools and their communities. #