NEWS | SOS Network condemns Lumad protest dispersal at DepEd headquarters
The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network and various youth groups on Thursday, December 3, held a mobilization in front of the Department of Education (DepEd) Central office to demand accountability from the agency. As the groups clamor for the Lumads’ right to education and denounce the attacks on Lumad communities, the supposed peaceful assembly was disrupted by the police force and DepEd personnel.
Contrary to the department’s declared mission, DepEd continuously violated Lumad students’ right to quality education by forcibly shutting down 178 Lumad schools and condoning the persistent red-tagging of Lumad youth, teachers, and advocates.
“DepEd, instead of fulfilling its mandate to protect the schools and uphold the Lumad’s right to education have parroted the false claims and dismissed the grave rights abuses perpetrated in Lumad communities,” the Network blasted in a press statement on Dec. 3.
From the militarization of Lumad schools to extrajudicial killings of the community’s members, DepEd never made efforts to uphold its duty in its directive to protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based, and complete basic education.
Instead, the agency went as far as becoming an active agent of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) by echoing the false claims and manipulated narratives against Lumads, all the while neglecting the rampant human rights violations in their communities.
Furthermore, SOS emphasized that the DepEd became an ally and an apparatus of the fascist Duterte regime as it further perpetuated the attacks unto Lumad youth.
“The SOS Network condemns the DepEd’s inutility and hypocrisy who claims to promote education yet failing to protect the Lumad schools and the 5,500 Lumad students disenfranchised by these closures,” the Network asserted.
The Lumads’ call
The group protested the Duterte administration’s widespread attacks on their schools, reiterating that the Lumad schools in Mindanao were built to fill the gaps of DepEd in providing rightful services in remote communities.
Amid their clarion for legitimate calls, police lieutenant Resel Guevarra ordered the group to stop the protest, saying that the gathering in front of the DepEd headquarters was a violation of health and safety protocols. However, before the arrival of the armed forces, protesters clearly followed the said protocols.
The Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino (KATRIBU) UP Diliman Chapter on Wednesday, Dec. 2, invited the youth to join the SOS Network in the mobilization to save Lumad schools. Furthermore, the youth group reiterated the calls of the Lumad community as they are yet again about to embark on a protest, fighting for their rights that the authorities continuously deprive them of.
“Una ay upang punan ang kakulangan ng estadong maghandog ng mga batayang serbisyo publiko (e.g. health care, edukasyon, etc.) sa kanilang mga komunidad. Bago pa man nila itinirik ang mga paaralan, laganap sa kanilang mga komunidad ang kawalan ng mga paaralan at ibang mga pangangailangan na naging bagko sa pagtatanggol sa kanilang mga lupaing ninuno,” KATRIBU UP Diliman Chapter wrote in a Facebook post.
“Ang ikalawang kadahilanan naman ay sanhi ng panghihimasok ng mga lokal at dayuhang korporasyon sa kanilang mga komunidad. Naririyan ang mga paaralang Lumad upang mabatid ng mga kabataan ang kahalagahan ng kanilang mga lupa at kung bakit kinakailangan itong ipagtanggol mula sa mga mandarambong at mapag-imbot,” the group added.
As SOS Network indicated in the same press statement, Lumad schools were established to ensure that the next generation of Lumad would be equipped with knowledge and skills to protect their culture as well as to defend their ancestral lands.
In the end, the SOS Network, along with the protesters, stood their ground to defend ancestral lands, save Lumad schools, and end impunity by defunding the NTF-ELCAC.