Makabayan bloc calls for House probe on suspension of 55 lumad schools

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 15) — The group of progressive lawmakers in the House of Representatives filed Monday a resolution calling for an immediate investigation on the suspension of 55 lumad schools in the Davao region.

The Makabayan bloc urged the House committees on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples and Basic Education and Culture to look into the suspension of the schools owned and operated by the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers.

The group said the Department of Education ordered the suspension "without proper investigation as it relied only on the report and self-serving affidavits submitted by the NTF ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict)."

It added that the suspension is "in flagrant violation to the due process rights of Salugpungan, its administrators, teachers, staff and students."

"The DepEd even failing to inform Salugpungan officers beforehand about the said Order before releasing the suspension order to the media. It is not only unjust and unethical but clearly smacks of discrimination against the Lumads of Salugpungan," the lawmakers said.

The Makabayan said the administrators, students, teachers, and staff of the suspended schools "have been continuously subjected to red-tagging, vilification and harassment for several years."

"The threat arising from the red-tagging and the actual occupation of military forces of school buildings caused its intermittent closures in the past years," it said.

They cited the Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in defending the rights of lumads to education.

The Salugpungan schools were established to give indigenous groups in remote areas access to education. The first school was established in Bukidnon and spread across Mindanao.

The Makabayan bloc is composed of Bayan Muna party-list representatives Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate, and Ferdinand Gaite; Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas; ACT Teachers Rep. Francel Castro; and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.