The military is not discounting the possibility that some Department of Education officials and personnel were threatened by the New People’s Army to allow the operation of Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region.
This was stated by Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato in a message to the Philippine News Agency Monday.
“We are not discounting that angle. The enemies of [the] state particularly the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] has a way of using threat and intimidation to attain their objective,” Detoyato added.
He added that they have requested the DepEd to conduct an investigation on the matter.
“The AFP will just bring up the matter to the DepEd and it’s the department call to act on the matter,” he said.
Salugpungan schools came to light after they were discovered as being used to recruit minor members of Indigenous People to fill up the NPA ranks.
With this development, IP leaders urged government agencies to close the above-mentioned facilities.
Detoyato said that they are monitoring the Salugpungan schools in the wake of this development.
“We are monitoring them and we are banking on the actions to be taken by the DepEd to resolve this matter,” he added.
Earlier, Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders chairman Lipatuan Joel Unad said the NPA targets communities, where settlers are particularly uneducated.
“Pinipili nila [ang] mga ignoranteng tribo, doon sa mga ‘di marunong magbasa, doon sa mga parents na walang alam kundi magtanim ng kamote, maghanap ng usa at baboy ramo, iyon ang pinupuntahan nila (They choose those ignorant tribes. Those who don’t know who to read, whose parents’ only livelihood is to plant sweet potatoes, to hunt for deer and wild boars. That’s their target),” he said.
Showing parts of the MIPCEL Resolution No. 20, Series of 2018, Unad, who personally submitted the document at the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City, urged the body and other groups to start a probe over alleged human rights violation against IPs in the region.
Unad said the 52 IP signatories to the resolution represent 18 major tribes in Mindanao.
“Yong nag-attend ng emergency meeting almost 51. Ang context doon, i-condemn ang ginawa ni Satur Ocampo. Pangalawa, declaration na kailangan ipasara na ng DepEd ang Salugpungan, kung hindi nila maipasara, ang IP mismo ang magpapasara (Those who attended the emergency meeting reached almost 51. Its context is to condemn the actions of Satur Ocampo. Second, a declaration that the DepEd must close Salupungan. If it can’t close it down, the IPs would close it for them),” he said.
Unad and Datu Jomar Bucales submitted the MIPCEL resolution before the CHR office on Thursday.
The resolution surfaced right after former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and 17 others were arrested over alleged trafficking and kidnapping of 14 minors, who were students of the Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. in Talaningod, Compostela Valley.
The DepEd, meanwhile, said that it has already agreed to work closely with the AFP to monitor community schools reported as “breeding grounds” for future members of NPA.
“We are closely working with the AFP because this is not just an issue of education, national security also,” DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said in an ambush interview.
Sevilla added that DepEd will make sure that all schools, especially the community schools in far-flung areas, have permits to operate to ensure “proper regulation and control over the management of such institutions”.