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'Instead of focusing on health crisis, gov't is attacking Lumad' – UP professor

For University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman professor Mon Sy, a bakwit school teacher, the government should focus on responding to the worsening pandemic situation in the country instead of attacking Lumad students and their volunteer teachers.

"Kaysa bigyang pansin ang lumalalang krisis sa kalusugan, sa pulitika, at sa ekonomiya, inuuna nila ang pamamarataang sa mga kabataang Lumad at sa mga volunteer teachers natin," Sy said in a Rappler Talk interview on Tuesday, February 17.

(Instead of focusing on responding to the health crisis, politics, and the economy, they are attacking the Lumad children and our volunteer teachers.)

Lumad schools have been the target of a military vilification campaign, accused of being used as training centers for the New People's Army (NPA).

"Walang katotohanan at walang pakundangan ang mga ganitong pamamaratang na nagiging training ground daw for NPA ang Lumad schools," Sy said. (Their accusation that the schools are being used as training grounds for the NPA is baseless.)

On Monday, February 15, Central Visayas Police, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), entered the University of San Carlos (USC)-Talamban Campus (USC) and took at least 26 people – Lumad students and teachers – into custody.

According to the Save Our Schools Network, the police "raided" the Lumad school and denied it was a "rescue" operation.

PNP chief Police General Debold Sinas said those who were arrested were from the Salugpungan school in Davao del Norte. He called the school an "NPA front," but did not offer any evidence or explanation.

Since 2020, Lumad schools have faced harassment, forced closures, illegal arrests, and aerial bombings. At least 178 schools have been shut down since 2016 due to their alleged involvement with NPA.

The Department of Education earlier said that Lumad schools were shut down for their supposed failure to meet requirements and violating rules.

Universities like USC and UP provide refuge for Lumad students who have evacuated from their ancestral domains due to this armed conflict.

Sy said that the harassment Lumad students face is another way for the Duterte government to silent dissent. In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte himself threatened to bomb Lumad schools.

"Makikita natin ito na isang malawakang crackdown against dissent.... Despite the pandemic, napakaraming attack against activists. Itong mga kabataang Lumad, at their very young age, they acknowledge that they are activists," he said.

(We're seeing this as a crackdown against dissent. Despite the pandemic, there have been a lot of attacks against activists. These Lumad children, at their very young age, acknowledge that they are activists.)

Sy said that Lumad people are fighting for their ancestral lands, which the government has been seizing for years. – Rappler.com



Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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