55 IP schools issued 'show cause' order for alleged NPA ties

DAVAO CITY – The 55 suspended tribal schools in Davao Region have been given five days to refute allegations that they are linked with the communist rebel movement.

DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones suspended the "permit to operate" of the 55 schools owned by Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers across Davao Region on Friday.

Atillo said the suspension also carried a "show cause" order giving Salugpungan executive director Maria Eugenia Nolasco to provide a written explanation on the allegations of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

Esperon, who also chairs the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, alleged that the Salugpungan tribal school system promotes the New People's Army's (NPA) communist ideology that espouses the violent overthrow of the government; trains its students to hold mass actions against the government; and uses curriculums not in accordance with the DepEd guidelines.

“Today (Friday) is the first day and we will wait up to the fifth day and we hope they (Salugpungan schools) can respond,” Atillo said.

According to Atillo, Esperon's allegations are backed by the testimonies of a former teacher of a Salugpungan school who has since left the organization.

“The basis of Secretary Esperon is the affidavit executed by Melvin Loyod who is a former student of a certain Salugpungan school and eventually became a volunteer teacher in a Salugpungan school in Sitio Pongpong, Barangay Sto. Niño Talaingod Davao del Norte,” Atillo said.

In his affidavit executed on Dec. 6, 2018, Loyod claimed that Salugpungan learners were taught with rebellion tactics against the government. The military also claimed that the schools are training grounds for NPA recruitment, where students are trained in guerilla warfare.

Loyod claimed that the students are taught NPA literature, made to sing songs praising the communist rebellion, and made to act in plays depicting alleged military abuses on the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

“Based on Loyod’s testimony they were also taught to handle firearms, learn the techniques on how to ambush military personnel, and other actions detrimental to national security,” Atillo said.

Atillo clarified that DepEd-11 has "not issued any permit to Salugpungan schools for SY (school year) 2019-2020 yet, even before the order came."

He said Salugpungan schools and other private school systems renew their respective permits to operate every year, "provided that they have complied all the requirements needed by the agency."

Atillo said the suspension of Salugpungan schools has affected more than a thousand learners in Region 11.

However, he assured that the students "will be catered in all DepEd run-public schools with or without their credentials. We will assist them to make sure that they will continue their studies and if they have problem with their credentials, we can deal with it later.”

On the part of the Salugpungan teachers, Atillo urged them to apply for vacant positions with DepEd, assuring them that their applications will be "properly catered."

However, Atillo said that if the affected individuals would employ protest against their agency, they are considering it as part of democracy.

Salugpungan schools were established to give IP groups in remote areas access to education.

In 2018, two Salugpungan schools in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Davao City were forced to stop their operations because of complaints from their own community leaders who echoed Esperon's allegations. (PNA)

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