Schools never a zone of peace under Sec. Luistro’s watch – SALINLAHI

September 19, 2015

Save our Schools Network
Kharlo Manano

Kharlo Manano of SALINLAHI and SOS Network condemns Department of Education for its neglect of Lumad schools. Image from SALINLAHI

‘Schools have never been a zone of peace under the watch of Sec. Armin Luistro. Instead, schools are turned into barracks if not burned or destroyed by the military while harassment of teachers and students as well as other forms of human rights violations become rampant on these otherwise sacred grounds of educational institutions’, said Save our Schools Network lead convener and SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary general Kharlo Manano who accused education secretary of allowing Armed Forces of the Philippines to enter schools in the course of military operations.

‘Instead of barring military in schools, he [Luistro] allowed the Armed Forces of the Philippines to use schools in the course of military operations at the expense of students and teachers’ safety and security,’ continued Manano, claiming that the increased incidents of military attacks on schools can be attributed to the DepEd’s issuance of memorandum circular 221, series of 2013 or Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict that contains guidelines for school officials and DepEd supervisors on how to deal with military units entering schools.

The memo adopted the AFP Directive 25 or Guidelines on the Conduct of AFP Activities Inside or Within the Premises of School or Hospital.

‘While there has been many pronouncements from the department of their commitment to maintain schools as zones of peace in accordance with various laws protecting children, the recent killing of a lumad educator in Surigao del Sur is a glaring proof that belies DepEd’s claim’, stressed Manano.

Last September 1, paramilitary elements belonging to the Magahat-Bagani forces killed Emerito ‘Tatay Emok’ Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) along with two lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Jovillo Sinzo at Sitio Han-Ayan, Diatogan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. ‘It is apparent that the DepEd doesn’t value the contribution of the likes of Tatay Emok, who have selflessly devoted their lives in bringing education for our lumad brothers and sisters’, Manano lamented

He added that the DepEd memo 221, given its rigid procedures and legalities, has only tolerated and covered up the abuses of the military against students, teachers and the community. ‘In fact, DepEd memo 221 has been used by the AFP to justify their attacks on schools which have halted school operations and caused fear and anxiety among teachers and students. Thus we say, under Aquino’s counter insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, the DepEd became a machinery of the state forces in committing human rights violations’, he opined.

Manano reiterated that the education department should immediately revoke the DepEd Memo 221 as well as issue a policy that clearly prohibits all forms of military operations inside schools or near schools. ‘Lumad schools should be declared as protected institutions free from militarization’, he added.

On the other hand, Manano lauded various human rights advocates and personalities including Angel Locsin and Aiza Seguerra for joining the call to stop Lumad killings as well as the military encampment and attacks on schools.

‘We encourage peace-loving advocates to express utter indignation and outrage over this disquieting issue of militarization in Mindanao’, he ended.###

Reference: Kharlo Manano, SOS Network lead convener, SALINLAHI Secretary General, 263-7789, 0922 295 3513