human rights in the Philippines

NGOs seek probe into killing of former Lumad teacher in Sultan Kudarat

Rommel Rebollido

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NGOs seek probe into killing of former Lumad teacher in Sultan Kudarat

Former Lumad school teacher Rowe Libot

courtesy of SOS Network

The Save Our Schools Network cries foul as the military asserts that former Lumad school teacher Rowe Libot was an NPA commander killed in an encounter

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines – Organized children’s education right advocates appealed to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to start an investigation into the death of a former Lumad school teacher, who was tagged by the military as a rebel, in Sultan Kudarat in late July.

The Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network) said the former Lumad school teacher, Rowe Libot, was killed by Army soldiers in a remote village in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat on July 27.

“We demand a full, impartial investigation into Rowe’s murder,” ssid the SOS Network as it described the killing “an egregious injustice that demands accountability.”

In a statement released on Thursday, August 10, the group asked the CHR to go to the village where Libot was killed, inspect it, and “expose the truth and end impunity on attacks on Lumad communities and human rights defenders.” 

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The group is a network of non-governmental organizations and church-based groups advocating for children’s right to education.

“Libot’s murder is violative of the Comprehensive Agreement in Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” the statement read in part.

The military, however, said Libot was a New People’s Army (NPA) commander who was killed when rebels and government troops exchanged firepower in Barangay Lemulan, Kalamansig town.

The SOS Network rejected the military narrative and said Libot’s killing was part of what it called as the ongoing militarization of areas where rural Lumad communities are and state-sponsored attacks on schools built for children coming from indigenous people’s groups.

Army Brigadier General Michael Santos, commander of the 603rd Infantry Brigade, said Libot was killed during an encounter that involved troops from the 37th Infantry Battalion in the village of Lemulan, Kalamansig town.

The military alleged that Libot led an NPA unit which engaged soldiers in a 20-minute gunbattle. 

Soldiers said they found various firearms and ammunition in the area after the fierce encounter.

A military report said Libot used to head an NPA group which operated in remote towns of Davao de Oro and Davao Oriental, and moved to Kalamansig in 2017, because he was wanted for various criminal  cases in the Davao region.

But SOS Network belied the military claims, saying the former Lumad school teacher had no criminal record. 

“The Armed Forces’s accusation that Libot was a wanted criminal is an outright falsehood,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

From 2014 to 2018, Libot was a student at Liceo de Davao-Tagum, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, majoring in English, the SOS Network said.

“The AFP’s claims that he faced charges since 2017 are patently untrue,” the group said.

The SOS Network said Libot had only been in Barangay Hinalaan, Kalamansig, for six months until he was killed.

The group said that on the day he was killed, Libot left for General Santos City to get food and medical aid for the community where he was helping. 

Hours after he left, “three gunshots were heard which imply that there was no exchange of fire,” SOS Network said, citing accounts of residents.

The group said Libot was a scholar and beneficiary of the free tertiary education program of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation. After graduating in 2018, he devoted himself to empowering marginalized Dulangan-Manobo people through education.

The group said Libot had volunteered as a teacher with the Center for Lumad Advocacy Networking and Services (CLANS), and later taught displaced Lumad children at school set up for evacuees in Metro Manila.

According to SOS Network, Libot suffered the same fate of Lumad school teachers Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo, and his killing was “part of a horrific pattern of violence targeting indigenous educators and falsely branding them as rebels killed in a false encounter.” –

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