Wed 26/07, 10:14

Philippines: Duterte threatens to bomb indigenous schools

President claims tribal schools are teaching students to rebel against
the government and says he will launch air strikes

Associated Press –
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/26/philippines-duterte-threatens-to-bomb-indigenous-schools

26 July 2017

The Philippine president has sparked alarm among human rights groups
after he threatened to bomb tribal schools, accusing them of teaching
students to become communist rebels.

In a televised news conference on Monday, Rodrigo Duterte condemned
insurgents for destroying bridges and torching schools in the
countryside but said they were sparing indigenous Lumad schools, which
he alleged were operating under rebel control without government permits.

“Get out of there, I’m telling the Lumads now. I’ll have those bombed,
including your structures,” the president said. “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.”

Human rights groups called on him to retract the threat, warning such an
attack would constitute a war crime.

US-based Human Rights Watch said international humanitarian law
“prohibits attacks on schools and other civilian structures unless they
are being used for military purposes”, adding that deliberate attacks on
civilians, including students and teachers, “is also a war crime”.

Leftwing lawmaker Emmi de Jesus of the Gabriela Women’s party asked
Duterte to retract the threat, saying government troops may use it as a
pretext to attack indigenous schools and communities in the country’s
south that have come under threat from pro-military militias in recent
years.

Angered by recent communist rebel attacks on government forces,
including a road gun battle last week that wounded five members of his
elite presidential guards, Duterte has called off peace talks with the
Maoist guerrillas and threatened their perceived sympathisers.

“By calling for an attack on schools Duterte is directing the military
to commit war crimes,” said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch.

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

Duterte ascended to the presidency in 2016 after campaigning on his
extra-tough approach on crime as a prosecutor and later as mayor of
southern Davao city. He has remained popular despite thousands of deaths
in his nationwide anti-drug crackdown, and his continuing popularity and
the ineffective opposition have apparently emboldened him.

On Monday night Duterte also called for abolishing the Commission on
Human Rights, an independent agency created under the constitution. He
demanded that the commission and the government ombudsman, who
investigates officials for corruption and other infractions, route
requests to investigate police and military personnel through him, and
laid down conditions under which he would allow those investigations.

Duterte said that if the ombudsman failed to address atrocities
committed by insurgents on government forces, “so that you can get the
truth and the whole story, then do not investigate my army and police.”