Rights network condemns harassment of Lumad teachers anew

The Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network of the Philippines (AscentPH) condemns in the strongest terms the harassment and red-tagging being perpetrated by elements of the 73rd and 27th Infantry Battalions against two teachers of its member organization, the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking, and Services (CLANS).

The first incident occurred on September 29, when Teacher Famela Taplan, a voluntary teacher of Purok Tadluga, Sitio Salaubon, Brgy. Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato was included in a blotter by the 27th IB for allegedly being a “supporter and contact of the New People’s Army (NPA)”. However, Sitio Leader Romeo Quelista can attest to the fact that Taplan is indeed a teacher and has no connections to the NPA. On October 2, she was supposedly summoned by Barangay Captain Pudi Ambalgan to talk about giving CLANS a “permit” to operate in the community. But Taplan was unable to attend the said session. The next day, Quelista told Taplan that during the barangay session, CLANS was being tagged as an NPA school. He also insisted that Taplan should go to the Surallah Police Station to clear her name. She originally intended to go to the Police Station on October 4, but thought otherwise when she was unable to contact District Councilor Annie Halliares who promised to accompany her. Taplan went to the office of CLANS in General Santos City instead. On that same day, soldiers from the 27th IB went to Purok Tadluga and ransacked the houses in the community. They were allegedly looking for armed men, but were unable to find any.

The second incident happened in Sitio Lamsalo, Brgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province. On October 4, soldiers from the 73rd IB illegally arrested 4 farmers who were working in their farm in Sitio Datal Kampong. The next day, Teacher Aubrey Masalon was also arrested together with her husband, Nestor Masalon, and one other community leader. They were forcibly detained within the community until October 6. The soldiers of the 73rd IB then left the area.

According to Geming Alonzo, Executive Director of CLANS, “it is highly insulting to us teachers to have had experienced these kinds of harassment on the same day that the World Teacher’s Day is being celebrated. Is this how Filipino soldiers show their gratitude to educators, by tormenting them and alleging them with trumped-up charges?

Sharlene Lopez, National Coordinator of ASCENT, added that “the Philippines, as a member of the United Nations (UN), is tasked with the responsibility of providing measures so that indigenous peoples such as the Lumad will have access to education. However, with President Duterte’s earlier pronouncement that he will bomb Lumad communities and schools, the government itself is the one violating people’s rights.”

Alonzo stated that aside from violating the right to education, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is also curtailing the rights of the Lumad to defend and protect their ancestral lands. “These lands are rich in natural resources and mineral deposits, which mining companies and agro-industrial corporations are set on exploiting for their personal profits. This is the main reason for the unending abuses perpetrated by the military. They want the Lumad to remain ignorant so that they can be easily manipulated by capitalist big business into surrendering their ancestral lands. Thus the various forms of harassment against indigenous peoples and their schools”, she added.

“We at CLANS are imploring the government to put a stop to the systemic violence against the Lumad peoples, their schools, and voluntary teachers. The Martial Law in Mindanao must end now! And for the peace talks to resume immediately!” proclaimed Alonzo.

As a network advocating for the people’s right to development and their full enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights, AscentPH asserts that “real development” can only be realized when obstacles such as human rights violations are removed. #

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AscentPH is a national alliance of development organizations determinedly working for the empowerment of the people through poverty alleviation and promoting and defending the right to development and other fundamental human rights and freedoms.

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