By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon assured the public that the government took steps to ensure that the right of children to education is protected when the Department of Education (DepEd) closed down 55 Salugpungan schools.
Esperon made the statement after the DepEd approved the permanent closure of the schools on September 20. The notification was received by Salugpungan school administration on October 7.
In a statement, Esperon said that due process was followed when DepEd ordered to shut down of the schools. He also said that the right to education was protected.
“We assure the public that the government has taken all possible steps to ensure that the right of children to education is protected, and that due process was followed throughout the closure of the 55 Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region,” he said.
“The government likewise shall take all the necessary actions to protect the nation’s children from recruitment into armed groups, and to prevent their participation in armed conflict as directed by Republic Act 11188, or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act,” he added.
To guarantee that the education needs of the affected pupils were addressed, Esperon said Education Secretary Leonor Briones instructed the DepEd Regional Office to arrange for the admission in other learning institutions of students displaced by the suspension of the Salugpungan schools.
Briones visited Talaingod in August this year to personally inspect the situation of the learners and teachers.
The 55 Salugpungan schools were suspended pending investigation and recommendation for violating DepEd standards and regulations, and for training child warriors for the New People’s Army (NPA).
“We would like to note that numerous individuals, teachers and former pupils of these schools- have attested to the fact that these schools are training grounds and indoctrination tools for producing child soldiers,” Esperon said.
“As part of their indoctrination process, they are taught a different national anthem and are forced to conduct dramas about IPs being tortured. To teach them to fight against the government, they are taught how to survive during encounters, how to ambush government forces, how to use firearms, how to recruit other children in the fight against the government, and how to conduct anti-government rallies,” he added.
Esperon also supported the DepEd’s order to shut the 55 schools down, noting that the child warrior recruitment in these schools exploited the innocence and vulnerability of IP children.
“Since the Communist terrorist group has used these schools as indoctrination and recruitment facilities of children in their formative years, the Deped’s action provides ample support in protecting the children of indigenous communities from exploitation,” he said.
“The abhorrent training and use of child warriors has to be stopped. For this reason, the closure of the Salugpungan schools supports the Whole of Nation objective to end communist atrocities and bring basic services to those who need it most,” he added.
“We reiterate that it is within the mandate of the government, through the Department of Education, to regulate the establishment and recognition of private schools in the basic education level,” he continued.
As of this month, the DepEd has accounted for 1,000 out of the 1,142, or 88 percent, learners for School Year 2018-2019 through its Learners Information System.
Esperon said there are DepEd schools in areas where Salugpungan schools operate. He added that more schools are set to be opened, and existing elementary schools are to be converted into integrated schools.