National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. was elated with the shut down of schools for indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao which were allegedly infiltrated by the New People’s Army (NPA) to teach Left-leaning ideologies to its students.
Esperon, who also serves as the vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said Salugpungan and Alcadev schools — most of which were established in Davao — were the “major sources” of NPA recruitment in the region.
“Natutuwa ako na dito sa Mindanao, ‘yung major source of recruitment ay mukhang natanggal na natin. Ano ‘yun? Salugpungan schools. NPA schools. Fifty-five na Salugpungan… Isang Alcadev. Natanggal lahat ‘yon (I am happy that the major source of recruitment here in Mindanao was already eliminated. What’s that? Salugpungan schools. [These are] NPA schools. About 55 Salugpungan schools… An Alcadev school, all of them are gone),” he said during a meeting of the Joint National Task Force – Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict Region 10 (JNTF-RTF-ELCAC) in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday, March 5.
In October 2019, the Department of Education (DepEd) ordered the closure of 55 schools operated and owned by the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers in Davao region for its alleged failure to comply with the requirements of the government. Meanwhile, 178 Alcadev Lumad schools were shut down since 2016, according to Lumad group “Save Our Schools” (SOS) Network.
Esperon claimed that the closed Lumad schools accounted for the recruitment of students into the communist movement, 73 percent of which are IPs. He further stated that these schools were funded by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a church-based organization tagged by the government as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“Talagang nagulat ako noong nalaman ko na RMP ang nagpopondo. Saan galing ang pondo? Sa NGO sa Europa, America, Australia. Pero 40 percent lang ang napupunta sa proyekto. Saan napupunta ang 60 percent? Sa NPA (I was really shocked when I learned that they [Lumad schools] were being funded by the RMP. Where did the funds come from? From non-government organizations in Europe, America, and Australia. However, only 40 percent of the fund actually go to the projects. Where did the 60 percent go? To the NPA),” Esperon said.
The RMP has yet to comment on Esperon’s recent allegations but in past media statements, the group had already denied that they are a front organization of the CPP.
Esperon said the national government replaced the closed Lumad schools with “regular” schools to pave the way for the development of geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas.
The NTF-ELCAC held a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City to discuss the rollout of the Barangay Development Program, the pet project of the government’s anti-communist task force which aims to deliver basic social services and programs to areas that were “cleared” of NPA influence.
President Duterte, who graced the meeting, reiterated his order to the military and police to finish off all the communist rebels by “killing them all.”