- Several groups as well as the Comission on Human Rights expressed their concern over DepEd’s decision to close down 54 private lumad schools
- But in a statement released this week, the DepEd defended the decision of its regional office in Davao
- The government organization maintained that the motivations behind the decision was done in the interest of protecting the students
September marked the Department of Education’s regional office in Davao’s controversial decision to permanently close down the 54 private schools operated by Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.
Alarm has been previously expressed over the continued closure of lumad schools in the Davao region. Various groups, as well as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), have time and again reached out to DepEd about this issue.
“We are enraged over the decision of DepEd Region 11 to permanently shut down the lumad community schools based on the malicious and false claims of the military, disregarding the fact that such move is tantamount to disenfranchisement of thousands of children to their right to education,” children’s rights and welfare group Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said in a statement.
“Contrary to what the DepEd is trying hard to portray, the order is baseless, partial and reeks of ill-motive. It is a clear betrayal of the lumad’s hope for education,” it added.
SOS Network claimed that DepEd failed to conduct a proper investigation and give the Salugpongan schools a chance to respond to the allegations, and had only set foot in Nasilaban, Talaingod but did not process to the other schools.
“The DepEd XI may have formed a ‘fact-finding team’ to supposedly look into the allegations against Salugpongan schools, but it has really no intention to look at the merits of the arguments of the Salugpungan schools on the accusations hurled against them,” the group said.
CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana also expressed that it was part of the government’s responsibility to make sure that the children, who are also indigenous people (IP), are able to exercise their right to education.
As stated in Republic Act No. 11188 (Special Protection of Children in Situation of Armed Conflict Law) Gana said children should be protected from all forms of abuse and violence.
She stressed that this protection should not come at the expense of their other rights, like the right to education. The CHR also has reiterated that any allegations that Lumad schools are being used as tools for recruitment for rebel groups need to go through the proper challenges and due process.
But in a statement released this week, the DepEd defended the decision of its regional office in Davao to permanently shut down the 54 private schools operated by Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.
They assured the public that its motivations behind the decision are guided by the interest of protecting children, emphasizing that most of those enrolled in the affected schools have already been transferred to public schools which are more accessible to where they live.
“The DepEd is mandated to regulate the establishment and recognition of private schools in the basic education level, which proceeds from both the Constitution and relevant statutes,” the statement read.
“The operation of schools in basic education requires the prior authorization by the DepEd, which, for private schools, is expressed by way of permit or recognition,” it added.
With regards to Salugpongan, DepEd said it could not disregard the report of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperoj Jr., who alleged that students are being taught to dismantle and assemble firearms and that they are being controlled by school administrators.
“The report by no less than the National Security Adviser is very serious,” the DepEd said, noting that Education Secretary Leonor Briones has exercised her prerogative in July to suspend the school’s operations pending the results of the investigation.
“The DepEd emphasizes that the suspension directed by the secretary is not in the nature of a penalty. It was a precautionary measure for the protection of the students, pending the investigation and resolution of the matter by the regional office,” it added. -Philstar/MB