Briones holds dialogue with leaders of IP communities

Abigail Abigan
Briones holds dialogue with leaders of IP communities
(UPDATED) IP leaders from Kalinga, Pampanga, Rizal, Tacloban City, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Sur, and South Cotabato, sit down with Education Secretary Leonor Briones for a two-hour meeting

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Education Secretary Leonor Briones held a dialogue with regional leaders of indigenous communities to hear their concerns about the government’s education program for indigenous peoples (IPs).

Briones initiated the dialogue on the sidelines of the 2017 Philippine Education Summit at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday, December 5,  or days after  Lumad groups led by the Save Our Schools Network (SOS) camped out in front of the Department of Education building for 12 days to call on the education department to act on the supposed military attacks against indigenous peoples’ (IP) schools. 

Eleven leaders representing IP communities in Kalinga, Pampanga, Rizal, Tacloban City, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Sur, and South Cotabato, sat down with Briones. The IP leaders participated in both the plenary sessions and the inclusive education parallel session of the  2017 Education Summit. 

Though SOS pushed for a dialogue with Briones, it was not invited to the dialogue. According to DepEd, it initiated the closed-door meeting to hear the side of the IP community through their regional leaders. (READ: Activists heckle Briones over Lumad schools issue)


From teachers to classrooms, there was no shortage of issues raised by the leaders during the meeting that lasted two hours. 

One of the issues the leaders raised is the failure of many teachers in tribes to pass the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET).  

“Una, ‘yung mga teachers nila na maski hindi pumasa ng LET ay payagang magturo, or minsan nga sinasabi na puwedeng bigyan ng free review classes para magqualify sila. So I think that’s a valid request,” Briones said in an interview with Rappler after the meeting.

(First, [they asked] that their teachers who didn’t pass the LET would be allowed to teach or be given free review classes to qualify. So I think that’s a valid request.)

The LET is provided under  Republic Act 7836 or the Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994. The teachers’ exam is not only intended to ensure the quality of teachers teachers, but also the quality of education and the whole education system. (READ: Know the best schools for teachers in PH)

Even if teachers in tribes pass the exam, many of them do not stay put in one community, according to the IP leaders. Teachers would move from one school to another, creating instability among schools. 

“Yung sinasabi din nila na ‘yung mga teachers daw na lilipat-lipat, mahirap kasi mag-adjust, mahirap maghanap ng teacher na kabisado ang lenggwahe ng katutubo o tribes. I-didiscourage natin yung paglilipat lipat. We need to recognize na special ang needs nila,” Briones shared. 

(They said teachers transfer from one tribe school to another, it’s hard to adjust, it’s hard to look for a teacher who knows the language of the tribes. We will discourage moving teachers from one place to another. We need to recognize that their needs are special.)

Preserve IP culture

Datu “Ampuan” Jeodoro Sulda-Pangantucan from Bukidnon raised the shortage of classrooms in his community and asked that the design and concept of such facilities reflect their culture.

“Kung maari po ay i-aayon ito sa design ayon sa katutubong konsepto upang maramdaman naman po ng IP community na talagang kanila po ang school na ‘yan (If possible, please pattern the design according to our indigenous concept so that the Indigenous community will feel that it’s really their own school),” Sulda-Pangantucan said.

The construction of new classrooms falls under the budget of the Department of Social and Welfare Development, according to Briones. DepEd has already coordinated with DSWD to address this matter, she said.

As of June 2017, around 50,000 of 113,000 needed classrooms have been built, but this doesn’t mean they be be used immediately. (READ: How DepEd to address PH classroom in PH

Briones said before she assumed office, P500 million of the DepEd budget  was “moved” to the DSWD so it can take care of building classrooms for IPs. She said she has written the DSWD to follow up on the program. (READ: DepEd to hold Brigada Eskwela in Marawi on Dec 13 to 15)

The IP leaders also want their learners to hone their skills outside of classroom. They asked Briones if they could be taught basic sports played at the annual Palarong Pambansa, and allow their native sports to be included in the sports program of DepEd.

“Marami tayong mga talented na IP. Kung maari po ay mabigyan rin ng pagkakataon ang mga katutubong school na matuto para sa amin pong mga anak, para rin po masasabi natin na kami rin pong IP community meron rin po kaming sariling sports na maipagmamalaki na puwede nating ituro sa lipunan,” said Benny Capuno of Ayta ICC in Pampanga.

(We have a lot of talented IPs. Please give us the IP schools a chance to learn for our children, and also so that it can be said that the IP community also has its own sports that we can be proud of and we can teach society.)

Briones assured them that DepEd will consider indigenous sports in their program.

Meanwhile, student representative Raymund Panes from South Cotabato appealed to Briones to continuously sustain the IP programs for the younger generation.

“Sana po masustain po ‘yun sa generation to generation, para at least kung kami man ‘yung makibanabang ngayon, sana ‘yung susunod na kabataan ay makinabang rin sa IP program ng DepEd,” Panes said. 

(We hope this can be sustained from generation to generation, so that at least the next generation would also be able to benefit from the IP program of DepEd.)

The IP Education Program of DepEd is a response to the right of indigenous peoples to have good education that promotes their indigenous knowledge, skills, and other aspects of their cultural heritage. As of 2017, there are 2,929,456 IP learners enrolled in 33,633 public schools all over the country.

On Thursday, December 7, DepEd will align with its concerned divisions and other agencies to address the issues.

Other issues

DepEd Assistant Secretary GH Ambat Ambat said the issues tackled at the dialogue between Briones and the IP leaders did not touch on the other issues raised by SOS such as ancestral domain, mining, and martial law in Mindanao, because these are beyond the DepEd’s mandate. 

Ambat also said that the dialogue being sought by SOS is already being carried out by DepEd at the local level and will be expanded to other areas implementing the IP education program, with or without the prompting of the group.

She also said that the the DOH has been addressing the issues raised by the SOS. 

On issue of securing a DepEd permit,  Ambat said that the department, through its regional and division offices, has been working with IP schools to help them comply with the requirements under DepEd Order No. 21  or the Guidelines on the Recognition of Private Learning Institutions Serving Indigenous Peoples Learners.

She said  DepEd Region 12 recently met with teachers and coordinators of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Networking, Incorporated (CLANS) to provide them with technical assistance in their application for permit to operate. 

Ambat also said that in the Davao region, all private IP school-applicants have been given temporary permits.

On allegations that Lumad schools are being bombed by the military, Ambat said the DepEd has not received any such reports from concerned local government units and school division offices.

She added that DepEd does not allow any armed presence within and near the premises of its schools and has received the commitment of the military to maintain schools as zones of peace. –

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