Duterte says only empty Lumad schools would be bombed

By Jim Gomez (Associated Press)

28 July 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president said his threat to launch
airstrikes against tribal schools because they allegedly teach
subversion would apply only when the buildings are empty, a
clarification that still raised concern he was advocating a war crime.

President Rodrigo Duterte responded to a question in a news conference
late Thursday that the bombings will be done at night and maintained
that the schools were teaching students to become subversives and were
operating without government permits.

Still, Carlos Conde of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said Friday
that bombing even unoccupied school buildings is still a violation of
international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime.

“I didn’t say that I’ll bomb those if there are people, so I asked them
to go away from there, meaning I’ll destroy those because you are using
a school without a license,” Duterte said. “I didn’t say I’ll kill the
children. Far from it actually. I’ll free the children from perdition
because they’ll learn to be like you.”

“I have every reason to stop it because you are producing another
generation of haters,” he said. “Don’t fool me. You teach nothing there
but socialism and killings.”

In a news conference late Monday after delivering his annual state of
the nation address, Duterte condemned the insurgents for destroying
bridges and torching schools in the countryside. But he said the rebels
were sparing Lumad or indigenous schools, which he alleged were
operating under guerrilla control without permits from the government’s
education department.

“Get out of there, I’m telling the Lumads now. I’ll have those bombed,
including your structures,” Duterte said then. “I will use the armed
forces, the Philippine air force. I’ll really have those bombed …
because you are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to
rebel against government.”

Activists have expressed concern that government troops may use
Duterte’s threat as a pretext to attack Lumad schools and communities,
which they say are also threatened by the security forces of big mining
companies because of the Lumads’ resistance to mining.

The non-governmental Save Our Schools Network has tallied at least 68
military attacks affecting 89 Lumad schools since last July. Military
spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla denied soldiers were behind the
attacks and said troops have gone to tribal communities to secure them
and allow government-recognized schools to be established.

Human Rights Watch and Manila-based activists said that by calling for
an attack on schools, Duterte is directing the military to commit war

Conde urged Duterte to sign the 2015 Safe Schools Declaration, which
commits governments to supporting the protection of students, teachers
and schools in times of armed conflict.