Lumad leaders condemned the apparent “silent collusion of government agencies” on the closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao.

Pasaka Federation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao expressed this in a statement issued on May 23, exactly a year after the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

The group hit the government for the closure of 56 Lumad schools in Mindanao since it forced 2, 209 students to drop out, according to them.

The statement was signed by Pasaka Secretary-General Jong Monzon, Datu Kaylo Bontolan of Salugpongan Ta Tani Igkanogon, Bae Jenelyn Bueno of Sabokahan Women, and Datu Mentroso Malibato of Karadyawan.

They also lambasted the “shameless act” of the military of tagging 1,106 students, teachers, and parents as “rebel surrenderees.”

Last May 17, Lumad groups aired their complaints about President Rodrigo Duterte administration‟s alleged human rights violations in a video conference held with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Lumad groups told Corpuz about their continuing suffering from the government‟s “red- tagging,” resulting in extrajudicial killings and strafing of Lumad schools.

However, the military refuted the allegations and dismissed this as a “disinformation campaign” by communist groups.

“We challenge our accusers. Provide details: which schools, where, and when the alleged acts were committed,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said.

“Those are serious allegations of criminal acts. And they should file appropriate cases in court. They should not resort to deception and lies,” he added.

Arevalo said that the accusations were part of the disinformation campaign by the New People‟s Army “to win back public support.”
Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, operations officer of AFP Civil Relations Service said that this Lumad group should present their accusations with “documentation,” he said. “We [AFP] do our thesis before we claim.”

Pasaka Federation addressed this counter-allegation of the military. “We are not dumb or slow-witted to the accusations hurled by this government that we are „brainwashed‟ by the Left or the NPAs,” the statement read.

“We are a community. We are a tribe that has practiced our culture and our own system of governance,” the group added.

Pasaka considers threats, especially those coming from the government, as dissolution to the future of their children.

Despite the heightened military activities in the areas of Mindanao which largely affects IP communities, Pasaka Federation said they will continue to defend their land and schools.

“We raise our demand to be heard by the public and government. We have the right to protect our schools and our ancestral land from militarization,” Pasaka said.

They also demanded the government to address the root cause of the conflict by resuming peace talks. —with reports from Halee Andrea B. Alcaraz, Jazzmyn Yza Jenovib L. Gestopa, Kimberly Kathreen Khaye P. Dave, Kristela Danielle S. Boo, Maryluz Jamella A. Blancaflor, Reuszchelle P. Fernandez


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