‘Lumad’ schools militarized
“Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the
oppressed.” (Psalm 82:3 NIV)
The move by the Department of Education to close three hinterland schools serving the Ata-Manobo tribe in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, affects adversely almost 3,000 lumad children. Replacing them with a public high school using military personnel as para-teachers is an absolute violation of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The learning centers were supported by religious groups which include the
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and several Methodist churches. The schools were established due to the government’s failure to provide basic social services in the area. The least the government can do is to extend support to these schools, not its tacit approval for their closure which denies indigenous peoples their right to education.
The insistence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on taking over civilian facilities and militarizing civilian functions assigned by law to civilian government agencies, such as the DepEd, exposes unnecessarily the lives of children to grave danger. This is also a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law which requires the military to take all feasible precautions to protect civilian populations and civilian
objects, such as schools, from the effects of attacks.
In journeying with the lumad, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines has been prayerfully undergirding and supporting their struggle for land, life and self-determination. We are compelled by the Gospel to speak out and call on the Philippine government to pull out the military and paramilitary elements in lumad schools and to let these learning centers continue their operation free from military occupation and intervention. We also call upon the government to provide the lumad communities with the basic social services such as adequate food and nutrition, healthcare, and affordable and quality education.
This biblical mandate to “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed” (Psalm 82:3) calls us to defend the rights of marginalized children in our society, and to demand that they be given equal opportunities to develop their potentials, to be protected from harm, especially the harm that comes from being put at risk in situations of armed conflict.
—REV. FR. REX R. B. REYES JR.
National Council of Churches
in the Philippines,
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