DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A Lumad school in Kitaotao town in the province of Bukidnon faces closure after a barangay captain issued a memorandum claiming that it is being run by the underground New People’s Army (NPA).
White Kulaman village chief Felipe Cabugnason said in an order issued on October 1 that the branch of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc (MISFI), which is operating in Sitio Dao, must immediately cease operations two days after receiving the memorandum.
“The Barangay Council decided to close the said school because of its lack of legal documents such as permit to operate,” Cabugnason said in the memorandum.
Cabugnason said that the school is also a “threat to the safety” of the residents in the village due to its alleged connections to the NPA.
“The New People’s Army are the ones who surveyed the area led by a certain member of the NPA which are named by its code ‘KA MACOY,’ ‘KA EBYANG’ and ‘ESOK,’ ” Cabugnason accused.
The barangay captain claimed that these persons also facilitated the purchase of the wood used for the construction of the school.
“Failure to comply with the said memorandum order within the time frame given, the Barangay Council together with the people in our Barangay will go where the school is located and we will automatically close the school,” Cabugnason said.
Prevented by DepEd
On Tuesday, October 6, Cabugnason arrived at the compound of the school along with 30 people carrying anti-NPA placards. They attempted to shut the school down but were prevented by the presence of officials from the Department of Education.
“The officials from DepEd confronted Cabugnason and his mob to explain that MISFI Academy is a legitimate educational institution. They also explained that if ever there are lacking documents, MISFI was given two years by the government to comply,” said MISFI Academy teacher Evelyn Cabangal.
The teacher added that the DepEd officials told Cabugnason that if they have any complaints about the school they can always send a letter to the government agency.
“Our visitors told Cabugnason that he has no authority to shut down any educational institutions and only DepEd can issue such orders,” Cabangal said.
Cabangal, who teaches math, science and values education, said they are now worried that the school, which presently serves around 55 students, will be shut down just because of a “baseless witch-hunting” by the barangay captain.
“We know that the rally does not represent the views of the residents of White Kulaman. There are hundreds of residents in the village but Cabugnason came with 30 people only who are obviously his diehard supporters,” Cabangal said.
On August 27, about 11 Manobo tribal and farmer leaders were arrested in White Kulaman by government soldiers and were transported by a helicopter. The military declared that the village was already “liberated” from the NPA.
The military explained that the arrest was made after they served 57 search warrants in a community of suspected communist rebels were they reportedly yielded an improvised M16 rifle, an M79 grenade launcher, 3 rifle grenades, two explosives and subversive documents.
Isidro Indao, spokesperson of the Kahugpongan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Kitaotao (KMK), denied the claims, saying that these leaders and organizations were targeted because they are vocal in the campaign against human rights abuses in the mountain communities and are calling for the armed groups, most especially the military, not to occupy civilian villages.
On August 18, a total of 5 Lumad, including a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, were killed by the Special Forces in the nearby town of Pangantucan town. The military said they were rebels but the NPA denied the claim, saying the victims were civilians.
Later, the 4th Infantry Division, despite their press releases and press conferences claiming that the 5 Lumad were rebels, recanted and accused the NPA of killing the victims.
MISFI operates numerous schools in different areas in Mindanao that are hardly reached by government services. It receives funding from foreign religious groups and from the European Union. – Rappler.com