Indigenous peoples (IPs) have been leading the demolition of the Salugpungan schools that they once helped build, following the permanent closure of these educational facilities, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on October 25, 2019.
The move came after the Department of Education (DepEd) 11 (Davao region) halted the operations of 55 Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) for indigenous children due to supposed irregularities committed by the school management.
“‘Yung IP (communities) mismo ang nagdi-dismantle ngayon ng mga schools na ‘yun (The IP communities are the ones dismantling those schools),” Esperon told Palace reporters in a press briefing.
“So finally, we are putting closure to these Salugpungan schools,” he added.
The DepEd approved the permanent closure of 55 STTICLCI in the Davao region on September 20. The notification was received by the school administration on October 7.
The DepEd ordered the total closure of Salugpungan learning centers after it found substantial evidence of irregularities against the educational institutions.
Results of the DepEd’s investigation revealed that Salugpungan schools have failed to use the government-approved curriculum; brought students away from their homes without parental consent; used students to generate funds; had unlicensed teachers; and operated in the ancestral domain of IPs without community consent.
The closure order was based on the earlier claim of Esperon, vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, that Salugpungan schools were promoting the ideology of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Tribal leaders have welcomed the DepEd’s closure order.
Datu Malapandaw Nestor Apas, chief of the Langilan Manobo tribe of Davao del Norte, said in a Palace press briefing on October 9 that the closure of Salugpungan schools was necessary to save indigenous children in the country from having a “radical mind.”
Esperon maintained that the NPA rebels are recruiting new members through the establishment of schools that cater to indigenous children.
“The red fighters, the New People’s Army fighters in Mindanao are 70 percent coming from the katutubo, from the tribes, from the natives,” he said.
“How did they do this? One very quick way of doing it was to establish the schools in the remote areas and that’s where they manufactured their ‘red warriors’,’’ Esperon noted.
The DepEd-11 reported that 1,142 learners have been affected by the total closure of the Salugpungan schools. About 1,000 of these 1,142 indigenous children have already been accommodated by the DepEd in other educational facilities for this school year through its Learners Information System.
Only 142 IP students have been considered “missing.”
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones on October 17 assured that “education will continue” for indigenous children, despite the closure of STTICLCI.
Esperon lauded Briones for her commitment to protect the IP children’s right to education.
“She (Briones) will put up a good school there for the indigenous people with dormitories,” he said. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)