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Sara, Makabayan bloc trade barbs over closing of Lumad schools in Davao

Vice President Sara Duterte and the House of Representatives Makabayan bloc continued to trade barbs over the weekend after the former claimed that the Lumad schools closed in the Davao Region in 2019 were allegedly run by teacher volunteers linked with terrorist groups.

Duterte, who also serves as Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary, said on Saturday that the Lumad schools operated and owned by the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center were all shut down because they were “illegally operating” due to a lack of permits and documents to prove their legitimacy.

She also said the schools “were not serving the interest of the learners” by providing them with basic education.

“While the Salugpungan schools were shut down because they were illegally operating — the schools were run by teacher volunteers who allegedly had links with the terrorist group New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” the Vice President said in a statement.

“They may have the genuine passion to serve IP children and the desire to see IP children emancipated from illiteracy, ignorance, and perhaps poverty, but this passion has been misplaced, stolen, and lost in the ideology of the NPA.”

This was refuted by the Makabayan bloc on Sunday, saying that the schools were shut down “through a combination of sheer intimidation, state terror and denial of due process” and not due to the claims of Duterte.

“From 2007 to 2018, Salugpongan Schools was duly authorized by the DepEd to operate in the Southern Mindanao region, until the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) intervened. Today, not a single Lumad school out of the more than 200 is operating in the aftermath of the violent attacks and denial of procedural recourse – denying over a thousand Lumad kids their right to education,” they said.

“That is why it is baffling for the Vice President and DepEd secretary to insist on justifying the closure of Lumad schools instead of opening channels for the resumption of the schools’ operations,” they added.

Duterte again on Monday slammed the group, poking fun at how several of the Makabayan bloc party-list groups failed to secure seats in the 19th Congress.

Only Kabataan, ACT Teachers, and Gabriela were among those able to get at least a seat each in the House of Representatives after the May 2022 elections.

“The laugh that I get reading Makabayan bloc’s hypocritical and dramatically rehashed statements — while thinking about how the Filipino people rejected the bid of Bayan Muna and two other Makabayan bloc partylist groups to once again infiltrate Congress and legitimize their existence while pretending that we do not know about their ‘love affair’ with the NPA, the NDFP and the CPP — is a way to de-stress from all the challenges the Department of Education and the government need to address without the help of Makabayan bloc, of course,” Duterte said.

The Vice President further alleged that the Makabayan bloc persuaded some of the youth to join the NPA and ruined their futures. She added that she was only telling the truth and not red-tagging them.

“Ang pagsasabi ng katotohanan tungkol sa relasyon ng Makabayan bloc at sa teroristang NPA, CPP, at NDFP ay hindi red-tagging o terror-tagging — ito ay pagsasabi lamang ng katotohanan,” she said.

The arguments between the two parties started when former Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat called Duterte’s wearing of traditional garb during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s State of the Nation Address “showmanship” amid supposed red-tagging of teachers and schools of Lumads.

Cullamat, who now serves as the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination (Sandugo) spokesperson, then said that they were open to anyone who wants to borrow their clothing, but their rights and plight should also be recognized.

In response, Duterte said that her Bagobo Tagabawa dress was meant not only to honor one of the tribes in Mindanao but also to raise awareness of the alleged abuses of communist rebels against IPs. — DVM, GMA News