Rights groups urges DepEd to pull-out military troops in schools

VARIOUS rights groups lobbied with the Department of Education (DepEd) and submitted cases of attacks on schools perpetrated by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The dialogue was facilitated by ACT Teachers Partylist Cong. Antonio Tinio. Different organization headed by Katribu Partylist, Dinteg (Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center) and Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) held a dialogue with Undersecretary Alberto Muyot, Legal and Legislative Affairs head of DepEd.

Beverly Longid, national president of Katribu, said that schools in the Cordillera and in Mindanao were subjected to attacks by the military. “The use of schools is being practiced nationwide as a part of national internal security policy of the Aquino government Oplan Bayanihan.”

The schools initiated by indigenous peoples themselves, and several non-government and religious organizations, according to Longid, were instituted for the communities to access education which the government cannot provide.

“DepEd should in fact support these programs as it does not only provide literacy and numeracy, but it also incorporates teaching of indigenous language and culture.”

In Mindanao, teachers and students from different Lumad Schools supported by non-government organizations such as Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS) in Sanggani, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in Agusan Del Sur, Bukidnon and Compostela Valley were harassed by the military. Schools such as B’laan Community Literacy School and ALCADEV were forced to temporarily shut down and evacuate due to relentless military operations.

In the Cordillera, DepEd Baguio City Division forged partnership with the 5th Civil Military Operations Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army to conduct Counterinsurgency Campaign through forum discussions among grade 6 and high school students in Baguio City.

Longid placed emphasis to government’s compliance to the RA 7610. “DepEd should be faithful with its compliance to law on the protection of children against violence committed by the military.”

One of the provisions of the RA 7610 or Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination, bans military to use schools, hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots.

Jaquiline Ruiz, executive director of CRC, stressed that children live in an unprecedentedly harsh and dangerous environment with the presence of military in schools and communities.“Early exposure to violence is one of the alarming and threatening consequences of the occupation.”

Ruiz challenged the Aquino government to uphold the rights of children to education. “As the primary duty-bearer in upholding children’s rights, the government must listen and respond immediately to the cries of children and their communities to pull-out military troops in civilian communities.”

Undersecretary Alberto Muyot committed that he will release a DepEd Memorandum that will recall and withdraw all existing Memorandum of Agreement between State Armed Forces and DepEd School Division.

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