By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
A local cause-oriented group criticized the continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao that, it alleged, has left thousands of lumad students displaced and their schools closed.
The Save Our Schools Network (SOS) believed that the harrowing situation of lumad students, along with their families, will only worsen, especially now that most of the administration’s senatorial and congressional bets have won in the midterm elections.
“The implementation of martial law in Mindanao has violated the rights of the lumad children to education and there appears to be no end in sight. Instead of upholding the rights of the lumad people, the state forces in connivance with various government agencies and officials have been systematically attacking Lumad community schools,” said SOS Network spokesperson Rius Valle.
Under Duterte’s martial rule, the SOS Network has documented 79 schools forcibly closed affecting 2,728 students.
Most of these students have opted to evacuate to neighboring villages or sanctuaries in the city to seek safe refuge and continue their studies.
Aside from forcible closure of schools and displacement, SOS claimed that there are incidents where school children are killed by the military and paramilitary groups on mere allegation that they were members of New People’s Army (NPA).
Students and teachers are also deceived and forced to admit that they are NPA members, it added.
“With the overwhelming victory of Duterte’s allies in congress, we fear that our call for an end to martial law will only fall on deaf ears at the expense of lumad children’s dreams of finishing their studies, serving their communities and protecting their ancestral domain,” Valle said.
He added that the attacks have forced the students, elders, parents and teachers to form Bakwit schools at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran in Davao City as well as in universities and churches in Metro Manila to ensure the continuity of their education.
“While the Bakwit School addresses the education of the lumad children, the indigenous people in Mindanao still desire for the lifting of martial law so they can safely return to their schools and communities,” he also said.