More tribal leaders speak up vs. abuses in Salugpungan school

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MANILA — Another group of tribal leaders in Mindanao reached out to the government for the shutdown of a left-leaning local school in Calinan, Davao City.

Sitio Kahusayan Datu George Mandahay, on Tuesday, expressed the need to shut down Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc. as parents have ruled out sending their children to the supposed learning center on suspicion that it is teaching them to rebel against the government.

Slow process

In a press interview in Davao City, Mandahay said the Department of Education (DepEd) follows a slow process on removing the rights of the school to operate on the territories of the tribal groups in Mindanao.

Tungod kay dugay pa man ang proseso nga ginasunod sa DepEd una masirado ang Salugpungan, mismong mga lumad na ang nagkandado niini kay dili panggobyerno ang ginatudlo didto (Since DepEd takes too much time, the IP leaders themselves did the closure. We have observed that Salugpungan schools are not teaching our children what the government has set),” he said.

Failure

The school is operated by a private organization, Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc., supposedly to enhance the life skills and knowledge of lumad or indigenous people (IP) children but according to the parents of those who attended the center, it has failed to do so.

Gani ang “a” nga ginatudlo sa mga bata kay armas ug ang “b” kay bala”. Magpakita sila ug nawong sa mga sundalo dayun muingon sila ug “kalaban” (Instead, they teach the kids unlikely. The alphabet goes: a for armas [guns], b for bala

They would even show photos of the soldiers and tell the children they are enemies),” Mandahay explained.

The IPs have requested the DepEd to revoke the recognition of the Salugpungan and build a government-owned public school instead.

This way, they said, they are assured that their children are not taught with subversive ideas.

Compliance evaluation

Davao Region’s DepEd office has also stated that it is now strictly checking the compliance of these Salugpungan schools before issuing a permit to operate for the next school year.

Once it sees non-compliance with requirements including the absence of enrollees, DepEd is bound to shut these schools.

Inaction

In a Congress hearing early this year, Undersecretary Allen Capuyan, Presidential Adviser for IP Concerns, rebuked the DepEd for the seeming inaction on the issue, noting that two big Mindanao groups have officially submitted to the DepEd their respective resolutions, signed by thousands of IPs, regarding the atrocities and requesting investigation.

“With or without the notarized affidavits, DepEd, as a regulating body is duty-bound to evaluate the compliance of Salugpungan schools,” he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) agreed with Capuyan, saying it has also received many complaints coming from IPs, including the resolutions earlier mentioned.

Major. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., AFP deputy chief of staff for Civil-Military Operations, said the complaints and issues regarding the Salugpungan were clearly stated and that complainants executed affidavits were duly notarized.

He also told lawmakers that among the notarized affidavits is one attesting that parents are forced to work on communal farms where half of the profits go to the school and the other half goes to the NPA.

Parlade, who is also a member of the task force to end the communist insurgency, likewise showed several pieces of photographic and video evidence attesting to the allegations made against the kind of “youth training” conducted in Salugpungan schools.

He said this material evidence came from documents recovered during operations, from NPA surrenderers and from IPs who were recruited by the NPA but have since returned to the folds of the law.

“This must be addressed because many of our youth are dying,” Parlade said.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.