Peace with Justice
Rev. Sandie Richards, Coordinator
California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
“Together, we spread the gospel of peace and encourage cooperation locally, in the United States and globally.”
June 8, 2015
President Benigno Aquino, The Philippines
The Hon. Leo M. Herrera Lim, Philippine Consul General
The Hon. Rodolfo Del Rosario, Governor, Davao del Norte
The Hon. Manny Pacquiao, Congressman, Sarangani Province
The Hon. Basilio Libayo, Mayor, Talaingod, Davao del Norte
Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, Secretary of the Department of Education, Republic of the Philippines
Dr. Josephine Fadul, Superintendent, Department of Education Division Office of Davao del Norte
Director Alberto Escobarte, Department of Education Region XI Director
President Barack Obama, President, The United States of America
The Hon. Barbara Boxer, United States Senator
The Hon. Alan Lowenthal, United States Congressman
The Hon. Ed Royce, United States Congressman
Pope Francis, Roman Catholic Church
His Excellency, Most Rev. Orlando Beltran Quevedo, OMI, D.D., Archbishop of Cotabato
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, Davao Episcopal Area (United Methodist)
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Los Angeles Episcopal Area (United Methodist)
Rev. Israel Maestrado Painit, District Superintendent, Davao
Rev. Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., President of Ateneo de Davao University
Rev. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for United Nations Ministry of the General Board of Church and Society (United Methodist)
The Rev. David Farley, Director, Justice and Compassion Essential Ministry Team, California-Pacific Annual Conference (United Methodist)
Dear Sirs and Madams:
URGENT APPEAL TO KEEP LUMAD CHILDREN IN SCHOOL
An appeal to condemn and stop military attacks on Lumad schools in Mindanao
Greetings of Peace and Solidarity!
We are alarmed that 2,896 Lumad children will be denied of their right to education when the Aquino government closes down Lumad community schools in Davao del Norte.
We, the undersigned, take this very personally as we are supporters of the schools and of the children, having made several mission trips to the schools, bringing medical services and education supplies. We keep in close touch with the children and their teachers and are alarmed and distressed to hear news of militarization of the schools, and that the schools may be slated to be closed. Further, as U.S. Taxpayers, we are deeply concerned that our tax dollars not go to support the further militarization of this zone, and that instead, the peace peace process resume in good faith between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
We echo the concerns of the June 8, 2015 letter from Karapatan:
While schools all over the country are slated to start their classes this June, we are convinced that the Department of Education Division of Davao del Norte intends to shut down lumad community schools. In a letter dated May 12 addressed to DepEd Region XI Director Alberto Escobarte, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy).
Education is a basic human right essential in realizing all other human rights. However, most Filipino children are deprived of this right and peasants and indigenous peoples right to education are far more neglected. Schools are built in town centers far from upland communities, compelling Lumad children to walk for hours every day to attend their classes. Children unable to endure the difficulty choose not to attend school. With more and more children opting not to go to school, Lumad elders in Mindanao, with the support of non-government and church-based organizations, worked hard to put up schools in their own community 10 years ago.
The STTICLC and the MISFI Academy operate in different parts of Davao del Norte. Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao Sur (TRIFPSS) and the Alternative Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) operate in the Caraga Region. While the B’laan Literacy School and Learning Center (BLSLC) operates in Saranggani province. A total of not less than 146 lumad community schools provide formal and non-formal education to children in various indigenous communities in Mindanao and majority implement DepEd-accredited formal education. They also provide literacy and numeracy programs and introduce scientific agriculture while strengthening the Lumad’s indigenous culture and traditions.
Attacks on Schools
International laws covering conflict situations expressly prohibit the use of public infrastructures such as schools; hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks detachments, and supply depots.
But Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s counter-insurgency program, compels the unwarranted use of the schools as military camps and outposts used to store armaments and personal effects. Continued use of schools damages infrastructures. Due to terror brought about by military presence and the fear of impending danger, students and teachers suffer anxiety. Military operations have disrupted not only the operation of these schools but also the lives and livelihood of Lumad people, in general.
Since 2011, a total of 82 incidents of state-instigated attacks involving 57 schools and day care centers in Mindanao have been documented and reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Conflict which adopted the AFP Directive 25 or Guidelines on the Conduct of AFP Activities Inside or Within the Premises of School or Hospital. Under both directives, military elements are allowed to conduct “civil-military operations” as long as the AFP has a written request and school authorities have given their approval. Since the issuance of the department order, an increase in the number of military attacks on schools was noted.
The Save our Schools Network had a dialogue with DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro last year to inform him of the continuing use of the military of these schools and to revoke DepEd Memorandum 221 which not only continued militarization of schools but has increased these violations.
DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul have requested permission to install a public school with military men as para-teachers and the trauma that the Lumad children have experienced and the fear that the military men have instilled in them in the series of military attacks will hinder their learning and growth.
We appeal for you to condemn the impending closure of the Lumad schools and the intensifying attacks on these schools perpetrated by the AFP.
Please send letters to:
1. The Department of Education to issue a resolution instructing DepEd Region XI Director Alberto Escobarte and DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent Josephine Fadul to stop any action to close the Lumad schools; to revoke DepEd Memorandum 221, and for the department to issue a memorandum prohibiting any military activity in school campuses; issue a Memorandum declaring Lumad community schools as protected institutions for the socio-cultural development of Lumad children.
2. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Justice (DOJ), Congress and other concerned government institutions and agencies to conduct independent investigation on the cases of military attacks on Lumad community schools in Mindanao.
3. The Aquino administration to withdraw its counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan; to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and various human rights treaties and instruments that the Philippine government is a party or signatory of.
4. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to call on the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front as a means to achieve a just and lasting peace.
Coordinator, Peace with Justice
California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
cc: Father Pops Foundation, In Peace Mindanao, Balsa Mindanao, Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, National Council of Churches of the Philippines