Hands off the Bakwit School! Save Lumad Schools!
This is the resounding call of students, teachers and parents of lumad schools in Mindanao and support groups from Save Our Schools Network – who held a press conference earlier today to expose the plan of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in collusion with some government agencies in harassing the Lumad students, teachers and parents who recently set up a ‘Bakwit School’ in UP – Diliman.
Citing a report received by the network, Rius Valle of SOS Network – Mindanao said that the AFP and some government institutions including the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) are planning to form an interagency team which is supposed to look on the concerns of the Lumad bakwit but the purpose is to forcibly send them back home despite of the dangers they will face because of continuing military harassment in their provinces.
“The intension is very questionable, especially that the very institutions involved are both liable for violating rights of Lumad people,” said Valle referring to the AFP and NCIP. Valle hinted that the only objective of the AFP is to harass and silence the Lumads.
The report was even corroborated when the office of Cabinet Secretary called the UP All Academic Union, who takes part in hosting the lumads, to inquire about the situation of the lumads in UP Diliman and asking if the union can convince the lumad to return homes.
“It is nothing but an old tactic to repress the lumad and threaten their leaders as well as support groups of being filed with trumped up charges.,” added Valle recalling the incident last 2015 when over 100 anti-riot police and members of the Alamara paramilitary group led by Cong. Nancy Catamco forced their way inside the UCCP Haran Center compound and assaulted the lumads who were forced to flee homes due to militarization of schools and communities. Aside from the violent dispersal, Lumad leaders and other groups who supported the Lumads were filed with trumped up charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention and human trafficking.
“Narito kami sa Manila upang ipaalam ang aming kalagayan sa Mindanao. Mahirap mag-aral kung palaging nariyan ang mga militar na nanakot sa aming mga guro at magulang. Kami na nga ang mga biktima, kami pa rin ang ginigipit hanggang ngayon. Gayunpaman, hindi kami matatakot dahil tama ang aming ginagawa at alam naming may tumutulong sa amin,” said Gleeza Belandres, a student of Alcadev in Surigao.
“Instead of heeding the demands of Lumad students and teachers, the government is using every avenue and opportunity to perpetuate more violations. We believe that they will only use the opportunity to create intrigue and distort the truth behind the lumad’s ordeal,” said Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns and SOS Network lead convener Eule Rico Bonganay emphasizing that after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb lumad community school, cases of military attacks were recorded in Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat.
“We reiterate our demand to President Duterte to retract his statement and respect the right of Lumad people to self-determination on their ancestral land, including their initiatives in upholding their right to education. At the same time, we strongly oppose and emphasize our calls to stop AFP attacks on lumad schools and communities, pull out military and AFP-backed paramilitary groups in lumad communities.
The group also called on Filipino people to show solidarity with the Lumad struggle and help in preventing any attempt of the government to disturb the operation of the bakwit school and evict the lumads from UP Diliman.