DepEd to ban military in schools, counterinsurgency sympos

AFTER meeting with indigenous peoples’ representatives and ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio September 10, the Department of Education pledged to ban the military from holding “counterinsurgency seminars,” camping at or near schools, and other acts which endanger children’s safety and right to education.

At least three DepEd Divisions (Baguio, Cebu, and Isabela) issued memos allowing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to hold such seminars, where progressives are branded as communist fronts.  AFP officials also warn students and teachers against joining these organizations and party-lists, including the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and ACT Teachers.

IP leaders present at the dialogue reported other instances of vilification and harassment, including interrogation by the military of teachers, children, and locals, and surveillance and tagging as “NPA schools” and “anti-government” of non-formal schools set up by communities to augment the lack of public schools under DepEd.  In Mindoro, soldiers encamped in the schools that tribal leaders voluntarily set up, forcing some of them to close.

Tinio stresses that such acts of the military traumatize teachers and children and hamper the much-needed delivery of education services, especially in far-flung areas which DepEd admitted to have a hard time reaching.

“By these activities, the government unlawfully involves teachers and children in its counterinsurgency operations,” Tinio said.  “We remind AFP of its obligations under local and international laws to respect the people’s rights to life, safety, education, and self-organization, to name a few.”

The Philippine government ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990 and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2003.  Under both, the military is obliged to consider children and schools as “civilian objects” which cannot be used in any manner for military purposes.

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