ANY threat to bomb lumad schools is against international humanitarian law, as President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to do if the schools harbored terrorists, the Commission on Human Rights said Tuesday.
“We are reminding [the government] that the bombing of schools, hospitals or any civilian institution violates the International Humanitarian Law. It is the responsibility of the State to respect this,” CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said.
The lumad are a group of non-Muslim indigenous people in the southern Philippines, mostly in Mindanao. They are named after a Cebuano term meaning “native,” and are often caught in the crossfire between the military and terrorists or Muslim rebels operating in the region.
Schools are zones of peace and are regarded under the law as protected civilian objects, he added.
Attacks on schools during conflict is one of the six grave violations against children in situation of armed conflict identified and condemned by the United Nation Security Council.
Gascon reminded the Armed Forces of the Philippines to remain true to their mandate and adhere to the precepts of International Humanitarian Law.
Instead of a militarist approach, the government should focus on delivering socioeconomic interventions to indigenous peoples’ communities, he said.
“I think the solution is not the military. The solution is the delivery of socioeconomic services— providing schools, housing, and other needs of indigenous peoples communities and protect their native land,” Gascon said.
There are about 17 million indigenous peoples, but there are voices have yet to be heard, he added.
“We will double our efforts to advocate and push for the realization of IP rights,” Gascon said.
“One effort is that we are making is a National Inquiry on indigenous peoples rights. We will do it over a long period of time so we can collect all the data on what is happening to our indigenous peoples and come up with a national report.”