Two militant lawmakers on Saturday condemned what they called the continuing harassment and intimidation of students and teachers of a community school for Manobos in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat since last month allegedly by government officials and men in uniform.
ACT Teachers party-list Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro said the harassment had been going on since Oct. 11 allegedly perpetrated by representatives of Departments of Education, Interior and Local Government, the local government including Mayor Abubacar Maulana, and elements of the PNP and the Philippine Marines.
The two urged President Rodrigo Duterte to order a probe and hold accountable the local government officials, PNP and AFP troops who aim to spoil the peace talks.
“We strongly condemn this ongoing repression of educators and developers of IP [indigenous peoples] communities in the region,” said Tinio.
He vowed to push for a congressional inquiry into the matter.
“This goes against the constitutional mandate to ‘encourage non-formal, informal, and indigenous learning systems, as well as self-learning independent, and out-of-school study programs particularly those that respond to community needs’,” he said.
“We challenge all agencies to look into the allegations of the victims and to immediately put an end to all forms of attacks on lumad schools and people’s organizations,” he said, adding they will launch a congressional inquiry into this matter.
Quoting a report of the Save Our Schools Network, Tinio said the Lumad School Diya Menuwa, a community school run by the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (Clans) and serving 1,003 Manobo students, is being tagged by the perpetrators as a school for the New People’s Army and not recognized by the government.
Per the report and statements Clans gathered, on Oct. 11, 2016, Tinio said armed and plainclothes-wearing police hang tarpaulins labelling Clans as a front for the NPA.
The tarp bore the logos of the municipal government of Palimbang, the National Commission of Indigenous People, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Philippine Marine Corps, and Philippine National Police.
The police also entered the school and took pictures of it as well as the volunteer teachers, Tinio said, citing the report.
The following day, officials of Barangay Kipunget gathered the residents to a meeting where the vilification was repeated, he said.
Based on the report, the two lawmakers said municipal officials also held a “caravan” covering Kipunget and several other sitios and barangays where they distributed flyers with the same contents of the tarp and told residents that there will be a P5,000 reward for those who can take pictures of the Clans teachers or point who the NPA are.
“Teachers who refuse to stop teaching at the school will only be given three warnings, or else be arrested,” Castro lamented.
Castro added government officials, police, and military are duty-bound to immediately stop the threats, harassment, and vilification in light of the ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.