Press Release
July 30, 2019

De Lima seeks Senate probe into closure of 55 Lumad schools in Davao

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought an immediate Senate inquiry into the closure of 55 schools in Mindanao catering to indigenous people's communities, collectively known as Lumad, which denied children's access to education.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 34 last July 25, calling for an investigation into the Lumad schools' closure to ensure no rights are violated, especially among the Lumads.

"There is [a] need to ensure that the Lumad children are not deprived of their right to education because of the ongoing efforts of the government against the New People's Army," she said.

"There is [a] need to isolate the culture-appropriate education of the Lumads from the so-called 'red-tagging' of the government in order to avoid violating their constitutionally-protected rights," she added.

Last July 15, the operations of some 55 schools for indigenous children in the Davao region, owned and operated by the Salugpungan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers, were suspended for allegedly teaching "left-leaning ideologies."

Department of Education (DepEd) regional spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said the suspension order was based on national security report that these schools deviated from their approved curriculum and taught children "ideologies that advocate against the government."

Education Secretary Leonor Briones claimed "none of the 55 [suspended schools] were issued permits to operate [last year] because they could not comply with the requirements" while 11 others have applied for a new permit to operate for this year.

"The allegations of not having valid and subsisting permits only came after the schools were suspended following (National Security) Secretary Hermogenes Esperon's report," De Lima stressed.

The lady Senator from Bicol maintained that Lumad schools exist as avenues for children of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to have access to education, despite being in remote areas.

"These places have also become alternatives to mainstream institutions that tend to downgrade IP culture," she said.

In filing SR No. 34, the former justice secretary underscored the mandate of the DepEd to ensure that the access of the Lumad children, especially those residing in remote areas, are not unduly prejudiced by the said suspension order.

"There is [a] need to ensure that the right of the Lumads, as a recognized IP group in the Philippines, to protect their ancestral lands, as well as their right to preserve their culture and way of life, are duly considered in determining the appropriate education for their children," she said.

Under Republic Act No. 8371, or the "Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997", "[t]he State shall take measures, with the participation of the ICCs/IPs concerned, to protect their rights and guarantee respect for their cultural integrity, and to ensure that members of the ICCs/IPs benefit are on an equal footing from the rights and opportunities which national laws and regulations grant to other members of the population."

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