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Mayor vows Salugpongan can’t operate anew

Mayor Sara Duterte yesterday vowed that the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center will never operate again after a city councilor recently threw support behind the management of the school.

Duterte, in a statement, alleged that the 55 schools operated by the Salugpongan “failed to give justice to the sacrifices and dreams of the lumad students.”

“Salugpongan shall never operate in Davao City again because of this failure and unforgivable injustice,” Duterte said in a statement released by the City Information office on Monday.

At least 11 of the schools used to operate in the hinterlands of the city and the rest in various provinces of Davao Region.

Last week, City Councilor Pamela Librado appealed to her colleagues to investigate the accusation leveled against the Salugpongan as a recruiting ground for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

The city government, Duterte said, “conducted due diligence in inquiring into the activities of Salugpongan schools before coming up with a CPOC (City Peace and Order Council) resolution.”

“The decision was based on facts, not on a whim or rumors as critics and anti-government forces want the public to believe,” Duterte said.

The mayor cited the March 19, 2019 CPOC resolution asking the Department of Education (DepEd) to terminate Salugpongan’s permit to operate.

The CPOC resolution cited the local government’s findings that include the persistent problem of Salugpongan students in not having academic records and individual learner’s reference numbers.

The findings also noted the presence of DepEd schools in areas where Salugpongan operates, negating the purpose of a Salugpongan school.

She said the Salungpongan learners are being used by its backers to raise funds that never went to the intended beneficiaries, and are instead being used for anti-government propaganda.

In particular, she singled out the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, which she said “continues to shamelessly lick its wound publicly over the closure of Salugpongan schools. It scampered in obvious panic, but it is relentless in its efforts to sow disinformation about the government and why the closure was enforced.”

The SOS Network, she said, even hosted a concert in Manila — a fundraiser for the so-called students of “bakwit school” or a “school-on-the-run”.

“It is clearly another form of abuse and oppression of Lumad children by a group that pretends to be its protectors and defenders. A bakwit school, just like Salugpongan schools, is useless because it is not and it will never be recognized by DepEd and it is another ploy to solicit pity and money from the public while advancing their propaganda against the government,” she added.

Duterte maintained that the students of “bakwit” schools are Indigenous People’s (IPs) children sprung out by SOS Network from their communities and forcibly brought in to the cities, “away from their homes to be used as poster boys and girls in their anti-government agenda.”

“Salugpongan clearly failed to give justice to the sacrifices and dreams of the Lumad students who spent their time with their organization, believing the school will help them better their chances in the future. Salugpongan shall never operate in Davao City again because of this failure and unforgivable injustice,” she said.

In July, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon accused the Salugpungan tribal school system of promoting the CPP-NPA’s communist ideology that espouses the violent overthrow of the government; training its students to hold mass actions against the government and using curriculum not in accordance with the DepEd guidelines.

Esperon, who is also the vice-chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said the allegations are backed by the testimonies of former students and teachers.

Also in July, Datu Joel Unad, chairman of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders, said DepEd should close the Salugpungan school system for propagating the “ideology” behind the communist rebellion in the country.

Unad made the call following DepEd’s order earlier that month temporarily suspending the operation of 55 Salugpungan schools in Region 11.

STTICLCI executive director Maria Eugenia Nolasco has denied the allegations.

DepEd-11 has since created a committee to investigate the claims and issue a recommendation whether to lift or make permanent the temporary suspension on STTICLCI’s permit to operate.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)


Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Librado’s move is a welcome development.

“(But) it is also the advocacy, duty and commitment of our government to protect the rights of our Indigenous Peoples and their children, especially from the evils of exploitation,” Esperon said who pushed for the closure of the school.

First and foremost, he said, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones stated that the Salugpungan schools “were temporarily suspended due to their failure to comply with the requirements set down by the department for private schools, be it IP-ed or religious school, to be given a permit to operate, and not because of my adverse reports.”

“For the past years, these schools were granted temporary permits even if they were not qualified because of negotiations with the promise that the requirements would be met in the following year. It is the mandate of DepEd to ensure that the teachings in schools are consistent with its curriculum standards, and not contrary to the Philippine Constitution and other laws,” he added.

Esperon also junked allegation that there was “no due process and probe conducted” by DepEd in its closure action.

“There was a review and assessment conducted that pointed out to the falling short of the requirements and conditions in operating a private school and that it violates the laws, orders, and rules and regulations of the duly constituted authorities,” he said.

Esperon said the report he submitted to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) against Salugpongan schools was “well validated.”

The report, he said, was based on the testimonies of those former teachers, “students” and tribal leaders.

Esperon said the testimonies were also collaborated by rebel surrenderees and backed by recovered subversive documents.

“All of these are consistent in saying that these schools are exploiting Lumad students to join in anti-government rallies and in fighting the government. Damning evidences also prove that children in these schools were taught how to fire guns and attack soldiers. This report is too serious that warranted an immediate action from DepEd – temporary suspension,” he said. (with PNA)

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