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DepEd condemns protesters alleging military presence in schools

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) decried a group of farmers from Northern Samar who staged a protest in front of its Pasig headquarters on Wednesday, March 7.

What the protesters did: According to DepEd, some 30 protesters forced the way through the gates and attempted to enter the Rizal Building.  

“The Department of Education vehemently condemns the storming of its gates by groups purportedly championing the cause of farmers from Northern Samar on March 7,” said DepEd. 

“Similarly, the Department denounces the unwarranted claim of People Surge, ACT, BAYAN, and SAGUPA-SB that DepEd is “complicit” to the supposed occupation of schools by armed troops,” it added.

Are schools being bombed? The farmers are alleging elementary and secondary schools in Las Navas town are being bombed and occupied by the military.

Various Lumad groups have been airing this concern for years, but DepEd has repeatedly denied their claim. 

DepEd did this once again on Wednesday. It denied any military presence in schools in Las Navas.  

“There was no military encampment in schools as the 78th Infantry Battalion of the 8th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and a Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit Detachment are situated far from Rubas Elementary School and Villa Elementary School, respectively,” said DepEd.  

The same report said military officers did visit Las Navas National High School, but only to deliver computer units. The troops immediately after the delivery.

But DepEd said the protesters’ accusation that landmines were scattered around school grounds “will have to be verified by experts.”

A similar protest has happened before: This is not the first time protestors slammed DepEd for the alleged bombing of schools in the provinces.

Last November, Lumad groups camped outside DepEd for days to condemn military presence in schools and the delayed granting of permits to operate for Lumad schools.  

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones was even heckled during Rappler’s "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots” forum over the same issues.  

Briones has repeatedly maintained DepEd’s commitment to keep schools as zones of peace. She has also signed DepEd Order No. 57, series of 2017, which stipulates guidelines on the protection of children in armed conflict.  

DepEd, as a member of the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict, also said “in no way shall it condone any act that puts its learners and personnel at risk.” – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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