Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

July 06, 2015

AN OPEN LETTER (see attached)

To His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III

RE: Community schools for indigenous children being shut down by Department of Education in Caraga region (Philippines).

Number of affected children that will be affected of the school closure:

More or less 2,896 Lumad children

Date of incident: 12 May 2015 up to present

Place of incident: CARAGA Region

Mr. President,

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) joins the Filipino human rights defenders, educators, people’s organizations, and international rights groups to raise our grave concern on the case of closing schools for indigenous people.

On 12 May 2015, in a letter addressed to Alberto Escobarte, Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI Director, Josephine Fadul, DepEd Division of Davao del Norte Superintendent, has endorsed the closure of at least 24 schools, which will affect 2,896 Lumad children of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land) (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy (MISFI Academy).

We learned that 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 the 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.

Education is a right, like the right to have proper food or a roof over your head. Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education”.

The indigenous children need not to be deprived to education and at schools soon to be close.

Since 2011, a total of 82 incidents of state-instigated attacks involving 57 community schools and day care centers in Mindanao have been documented and reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Conflict. These community schools and centers adopted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (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 community schools has been noted.

The situation over a decade ago was that public schools were built in town centers, far from upland communities, compelling Lumad children