BAYAN firmly condemns the permanent closure of the 54 campuses of the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Davao Region. This shutdown is a resolution enacted by the Department of Education Region XI in response to the malicious complaint by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, citing nothing more than fabricated and coerced testimony, that these schools are being used to turn Lumad youth against the government and recruit them to the New People’s Army (NPA).
Outcomes of Martial Law in Mindanao
This permanent closure results in the disenfranchisement and displacement of at least 3,500 Lumad students and 30 teachers. Martial law (ML) in Mindanao has made it possible for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to dictate upon civilian agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd). At the same time, martial law enables state forces to inflict surgical violence on sectors critical of military abuse and the encroachment of extractive industries in ancestral lands.
What is all this violence and resulting misery for? To implement Executive Order 70 signed by President Duterte on December 4, 2018 also known as the whole-of-nation approach (WNA). Duterte and his officials defend WNA as an instrument in “attaining inclusive and sustainable peace…to end local communist armed conflict through the creation of a National Task Force (NTF) that will take the lead in institutionalizing a national peace framework.”
Our indigenous population in Mindanao—the Lumad (people of the earth)— are being used as proof that a presidential order is effectual in a martial law-stricken island. Short of bombing their schools to smithereens (as Duterte threatened after his 2017 SONA), the government has forceably shuttered the 55 lumad schools relying on vicious, reckless and unverified accusations by Gen. Esperon, hiding behind administrative technicalities cited by DepEd officials.
When ML in Mindanao was first imposed in May 2017, Duterte and his military used the so-called “siege of Marawi” by the Maute portrayed as an ISIS-backed armed group. More than two years since the full implementation of ML in Mindanao, the results are the ruin of the Marawi landscape, the continuing displacement of thousands of Marawi residents, the torment of accounting for thousands of deaths, and the psychological toll of war among our Muslim brothers and sisters.
The Lumad and the Moro people are two of the leading forces in Mindanao known for their anti-colonial struggle against Spain and the USA. Their minoritization is a state response to their unwavering struggle for self-determination. WNA packaged as “national peace framework” is nothing less than an instrument of state violence targeting national minorities who have served as the determined guardians of one of the richest islands in the world targeted by foreign direct investors for relentless extraction and United States (US) foreign policy for the promotion of the imperialist war industry.
Whole-of-Nation Approach: Duterte’s fascism and puppetry
WNA is an invention of Imperialist US foreign policy, cited in the 2006 US Counterinsurgency Manual, and is by no means a Duterte original. What dominates US imperialist foreign policy in the era of globalization is its self-proclaimed mission to bring so-called peace and stability in “conflict plagued areas.” In the US imperialist hot and cold war playbook, conflict plagued areas are places where people struggle for life, land and rights. The collusion between US Imperialism and the Philippine oligarchy is revealed through the government’s attacks on the people of Mindanao and other islands like Negros, the Cordilleras and the Bicol region using purported peace instruments.
BAYAN works closely and in solidarity with the 54 campuses of the Salugpongan schools in the Davao Region. The DepEd XI’s deployment of a “fact-finding” team did not visit any of the 54 Salugpongan schools to validate the accusations emanating from National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. These accusations, which DepEd Secretary Liling Briones used to rationalize her suspension of these Lumad schools, are nothing more than a vilification of the Lumad’s efforts at realizing free, quality and culturally relevant education.
The Lumad students of Salugpongan schools recently engaged in a global climate strike campaign, emphasizing their long-standing defense of ancestral domain— a huge part of which is the Pantaron Mountain range— as the concrete expression of their contribution to the global climate justice campaign. The Lumad’s defence of “yutang kabili” ( ancestral domain) is demonized by the military and DepEd as proof of communist ideology allegedly taught in Salugpongan schools.
BAYAN is a staunch supporter of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the umbrella alliance of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that includes the CPP/NPA. BAYAN asserts that peace can only be achieved by addressing the roots of the armed conflict. The dispossession of farmers or landlessness and the absence of a national industry that will provide gainful employment for Filipinos are concrete conditions for the search for alternatives. The search for alternatives have yielded two paths for our people: the revolutionary armed resistance in the countryside and the democratic mass movement in urban areas.
The Philippine government’s use of WNA/EO 70 to destroy the armed resistance is a symptom of its failure to improve cooperation and learn from past failures in its aim to promote peace. Through WNA, the US-Duterte regime targets civilians, and in this case, Lumad children, instead of addressing the roots of the armed conflict. The efforts of the Salugpongan schools to ensure quality education is labeled “communist-terrorist.” In other words, the permanent closure of 54 Lumad schools is an act of compliance to WNA, a US imperialist scheme. This is state fascism and puppetry loud and clear.
The fight for people’s rights under the US-Duterte regime is criminalized and severely punished. BAYAN enjoins all its organizations to significantly contribute to the struggle for free, quality and culturally relevant education for the Lumad children. We call on our members and allies to support the efforts of the Save Our Schools Network and SANDUGO (alliance of national minorities in the Philippines) in providing assistance to the Lumad students and teachers affected by this permanent closure of their schools.
BAYAN vows to ensure that the Lumad and Muslims of Mindanao are joined by the progressive and patriotic forces all over the Philippines in exposing and opposing the Duterte regime’s puppetry to US imperialist dictates, unbridled corruption and willful disregard for people’s right to self-determination.
Defend Salugpongan Schools!
End Martial Law in Mindanao!
Scrap Executive Order 70!
Fight fascist tyranny!
*Photo from Inquirer.net