Activists heckle Briones over Lumad schools issue
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Activists on Tuesday, November 28, heckled Education Secretary Leonor Briones after she gave a speech at Rappler's public forum, "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots," at a hotel in Makati City.
During the open forum, RJ Perez, a member of the audience, introduced himself as a "volunteer professional educator" of a Lumad school in Mindanao.
He asked for Briones' reaction to what he called "misinformation and disinformation" about schools serving the Lumad children.
"They have been called rather baselessly as NPA (New People's Army) schools, as prefix for shutting or burning them down. Is it not the responsibility of the Department of Education (DepEd) to protect and promote education, especially for national minorities?" Perez asked.
Briones agreed that it is the responsibility of DepEd to defend schools, adding that the agency had defended schools "under our jurisdiction, under our regulation."
As followup, Perez asked Briones for her statement regarding Lumad schools that have permits to operate but "patuloy at araw-araw na binobomba (are continuously and daily bombed)."
"Ilang beses na pinapatay ang aming mga mag-aaral, at isa po ako sa harapan ninyo ngayon na ilang beses na tinutukan ng militar ng kanyang mga baril at bala upang ako ay palayasin at paalisin sa eskuwelahan upang makapagbigay ng serbisyo sa mga kabataang Lumad."
(Our students are being killed, and I'm one of those who have been repeatedly held at gunpoint by the military to kicked me out of the school that serves the Lumad children.)
Briones explained to him that the DepEd does not bomb schools, and that the department has already declared "schools as zones of peace."
"Ngayon, nagpipirmahan ang lahat ng mga ahensya, kasama na ang militar, kaya ngayon, makikita ninyo, nagpirma rin ang mga militar. Makikita ninyo na ang mga eskuwelahan, hindi na ginagawang tulugan ng mga sundalo, dinala namin 'yan sa United Nations, dinala namin 'yan sa militar," Briones explained.
(Now, we're signing an agreement with other agencies, together with the military, so now you can see that soldiers no longer camp out in schools, we brought that issue to the United Nations, to the military.)
She added: "Huwag ninyo kaming sisihin sa mga bagay na hindi naman ginawa ng Department of Education. Siguro sa ibang opisina ninyo dalhin ang inyong mga hinaing."
(Do not blame us for things that the Department of Education did not do. Maybe you should bring your complaints up with other [government] offices.)
A small group of young people showed up near the stage while Perez was asking his questions. They were carrying small posters with protest messages. (READ: Why Lumad groups are camping outside DepEd)
The Save Our Schools Network, which led protests outside the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City days earlier, also went live on Facebook with the caption: "WATCH: Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones met with protest in a forum."
A Philippine Collegian video shows another member of the group, shouting: "Kung hindi kami magsasalita dito, saan niyo po kami pakikinggan? (If we don't speak out here, in which venue will you listen to us?)"
WATCH: Lumad students and teachers protesting in the forum pic.twitter.com/NvoS3PxNcI— Philippine Collegian (@phkule) November 28, 2017
Briones pointed out that it's not part of the indigenous peoples' culture to shout or curse at people who are older, as what the activists were doing.
At this point, a few activists were heard heckling the secretary from another part of hall.
"Ang hinihingi ninyo ay permit, ang lahat ng schools. Wala akong kapangyarihan na pigilan 'yung sinasabi ninyo dahil hindi naman opisina ko 'yan," she added.
(You're asking for permits for all schools. I have no power to stop what you say is happening in the schools because that's not under my office.)
Schools must be registered under DepEd so enrolled students will be assigned an official learner's reference number. This number is needed for academic credit, for a student to be able to advance from primary school to secondary school, and so forth.
During the incident, Briones tried to explain DepEd's side on the issue.
"Ako ay magpapakumbaba, 3 probinsya: ang Davao may temporary permits, Cotabato, tinatrabaho [ang] permits, sa Surigao, doon talaga kailangan ayusin," she explained.
(I humble myself, there are 3 provinces: Davao schools have temporary permits; in Cotabato, we're working on the permits; in Surigao, this is where we really to work on it.)
After the exchange, protesters were escorted out of the hall. They left the building after a brief discussion with the organizers.
DepEd denounced the action of protesters in a statement released on Tuesday night, saying that shouting at the education secretary and "insisting on a one-way noise barrage" do not reflect the culture and values of the IPs they claim to represent.
In its statement, DepEd said that that dialogue being sought by the Lumad groups has been ongoing in the local level.
"DepEd Region 12 recently met with teachers and coordinators of Center for Lumad Advocacy and Networking, Inc. (CLANS) to provide them with technical assistance in their application for permit to operate. In the Davao Region, all private IP schools that applied have been given temporary permits and are also being assisted by DepEd," it said in the statement.
The education department also reiterated its commitment with the military to maintain schools as zones of peace.
Currently, there are 2,929,456 IP learners enrolled under the department's IPEd program. Implemented in 33,633 public schools all over the country, the program aims to:
- make the curriculum culturally responsive to the specific community context of IP learners
- build the capacity of teachers, school heads, and other concerned personnel at different levels of governance in implementing culture-based education for IP learners
- support the development of culturally appropriate learning resources and environment responsive to the specific community context of IP learners
- strengthen the policy environment supportive of IPEd
- address the learning needs of IP learners who lack access to basic education services.
On November 22, Briones already called for a press conference to answer the allegations being hurled against DepEd by Lumad groups camped outside the DepEd building in Pasig City.
During the press briefing, she announced that she had signed DepEd Department Order Number 57, series of 2017, which "supersedes" DO 221. The document was signed on Tuesday, November 21.
The new department order no longer contains guidelines in the conduct of military activities in the premises of a school or a hospital, and lists down "grave" child rights violations.
Education Undersecretary Alberto Muyot, meanwhile, said the DepEd already vowed to assist interested Lumad schools in processing their permits.
"In fact, we committed to the 3 divisions that want to build schools in their area, that we will provide them with technical assistance so that they would be able to comply with the requirements," Muyot earlier said in Filipino.
Save Our Schools Network also ended their 13-day camp out in front of DepEd Main office on Tuesday. – Rappler.com
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