DepEd’s hands tied in SOS school issue

THE DEPARTMENT of Education (DepEd) XI is willing to help Lumad students in private schools in the hinterlands of the region who are complaining of militarization.

But DepEd regional director Alberto Escobarte said the best they can do is to the bring the matter to the proper agencies.

And since the complaint is about alleged abuses of the military, then these should be addressed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Escobarte said.

Escobarte, in an interview, said his office has already been conducted talks with the members of groups such the Save Our Schools (SOS) since since Monday.

The talks have been cordial, Escobarte said.

Around 100 Lumad students and members of the SOS have camped out since last week in front of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) XI depot in Panacan, where the Office of President Rodrigo Duterte is located.

Since Monday, the group has also camped out in front the DepEd XI compound to seek assistance.

On July 1, the AFP has terminated from the service Rodel Butanlog, a militia member who was complained to have attempted to kill a teacher

The AFP said Butanlog, the a Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) member under the Philippine Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion, was terminated after it was confirmed that he attempted to shoot Ramel Miguel, a Lumad teacher in Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Nasilaban, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Butanlog’s act terrorized the school children.

But SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said AFP move to terminate Butanlog was not enough.

In a statement, Valle said the military should withdraw all its troops from school facilities run by the SOS in areas such as Davao del Norte.

“This decision by the 60th and 72nd Infantry Battalions rising from Butanlog’s attempted murder of a Salugpongan teacher is a cowardly move,” Valle said.

“The military frequently dared us to file cases, yet now they are dropping their cohorts just to save themselves from prosecution. It is a move similar to Pontius Pilate by washing their hands from any involvement of recruiting and mobilizing paramilitary forces in our communities.”

The students and teachers of schools like Salugpongan in different areas in Mindanao have repeatedly decried the alleged presence of the military in schools.

In some cases, the soldiers reportedly house themselves in the school facilities.

“We find them in Muling, Kapalong where Alamara members threaten to kill the parents of Misfi Academy. We find them still in Surigao del Sur where the killer of Alcadev director Emerito Samarca is still roaming around the communities,” Valle said.

“We still press on with the accountability of the 60th IB, 72nd IB and all other military battalions in Mindanao who have deployed the paramilitary in our communities, that has caused division among the Lumads and disruption of the lumad schools and are now depriving Lumad students from their right to be protected from attacks of the state.”

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