23 September 2015
Reference: ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (09209220817)
President Aquino has a direct hand in the continuing campaign of violence and harassment against schools and communities of indigenous peoples (IP), ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio revealed. This campaign, added the solon, has sown terror and disrupted the schooling of thousands of lumad children in Mindanao.
During deliberations on the 2016 budget of the Department of Education last Monday, officials from DepEd Region XI admitted that the plan to close down the schools set up by the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTILC) and replace them with schools run by soldiers was hatched during a meeting called by the Regional Intelligence Committee (RIC) on April 23, 2015.
The RIC is a body convened by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), government’s lead intelligence collection agency operating directly under the Office of the President. NICA officials report to the President and its Director General is the President’s principal adviser on intelligence.
STTILC schools are community-based schools voluntarily set up and maintained by the Talaingod Manobos with the support of missionary groups in the hinterlands of Davao del Norte.
In her May 12, 2015 letter to Deped Regional XI Director Atty. Alberto Escobarte, Davao del Norte Schools Division Superintendent Josephine Fadul urged the closure of STTILC schools. Fadul added, “Should this request for the closure of said schools be granted, in its stead, this Division requests permission to implement the creation of a public high school in Butay, Talaingod utilizing military personnel as para-teachers as has been previously discussed and agreed upon during our meeting with the Regional Intelligence Committee at NEAP last 23 April 2015” [italics supplied].
“The key role played by the NICA, an agency directly under the Office of the President, in summoning DepEd Region X officials and hatching the plan to close down the Salugpungan schools in Davao del Norte establishes the direct hand of the President in orchestrating and coordinating the ongoing campaign of vilification, harassment, and violence targeting the lumad schools in Mindanao,” said Tinio.
“This explains why Malacañang has paid mere lip-service and taken no effective action to put an end to the extrajudicial killing spree against lumad leaders and the occupation of schools by the military,” added Tinio. “Malacañang can no longer feign ignorance, wash its hands, nor pretend to conduct an investigation. The campaign against lumads apparently has the sanction of the President.”
The legislator noted that the attempt to close down the Salugpungan schools formed part of a larger counterinsurgency campaign aimed at neutralizing lumad resistance to large-scale mining in the Davao and CARAGA regions. Lumad schools have been taken over by AFP troops, schoolhouses, burned, and teachers and students terrorized. On September 1, the executive director of a lumad school in Surigao del Sur was murdered by paramilitary forces controlled by the AFP.
Under questioning by Tinio at the Committee on Appropriations hearing, Fadul also confirmed that intelligence officers of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were present during the April 23 meeting.
“This is a significant disclosure by Superintendent Fadul,” noted Tinio. “It belies the statements made by top officials of the AFP, led by Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri, during their own budget hearing that the military played no role in calling for the closure of the lumad schools. Clearly, they were present and actively involved in planning the school closures and in suggesting that their soldiers be assigned as para-teachers. In short, AFP officials lied to Congress. Their game plan is obviously to deny everything and claim that the violence against lumad schools is part of an alleged tribal war.”
Tinio vowed to question NICA regarding its role in the campaign against lumad schools when their budget is scheduled for deliberation before Congress.
“There is now growing evidence that the campaign of violence against indigenous peoples, their schools and communities in Mindanao are under the direction of the President through the AFP and the NICA. We will fight for justice for the thousands of lumads that have been displaced, the children that have been deprived of education, and the individuals killed in the name of Aquino’s matuwid na daan,” concluded Tinio. #