DepEd’s doppelganger

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The controversial Lumad school Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLC) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte was established in 2007 by religious groups with the apparent blessing of the Department of Education (DepEd) at the time to help educate Manobo children living in remote highlands. From one campus, the school spawned branches in the province, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

With the recent discovery by authorities that the STTICLC is being used by the communist movement to indoctrinate Lumad children according to their ideology and potentially turn them into members of the New People’s Army (NPA), past officials of the DepEd have a lot of explaining to do for failing to notice that such schools were merely pretending to educate indigenous people and were actually serving the interest of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA. All along since 2007, CPP had its DepEd counterpart establishing a network of schools that brainwash tribal students into thinking that the government is an enemy that has to be destroyed and replaced in accordance with the ultimate objective of the CPP.

The parents of the 14 Lumad students who were allegedly kidnapped by former Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Satur Ocampo and incumbent ACT-Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro from the Talaingod STTICLC on the night of 29 November complained that the ex-legislator had no permission to take their children with them. That reinforced the Talaingod police’s action to detain Ocampo, Castro and 16 STTICLC members after officers manning a checkpoint found the students inside their vans.

Ocampo and Castro denied the charges and argued they were rescuing the children after the military allegedly padlocked the school. Leftist congressmen soon defended the two and accused the military of harassment.

It is the military’s position that the so-called Salugpungan schools are creations of the communists to convert civilians into rebels and replenish the dwindling ranks of the NPA.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año believes Ocampo is recruiting minors for the communist movement. President Rodrigo Duterte, the commander-in-chief, concurred when he said Bayan Muna is a communist front.

Ocampo denied recruiting Lumad students for the NPA even citing a rule of the communist against such practice. But at least 26 child warriors of the NPA in Eastern Samar surrendered over the weekend while two juveniles were rescued following an encounter with soldiers in Barangay Namal, Asipulo, Ifugao on Friday belying his claim.

Lumad men who have been recruited to join the ranks of the communist rebels claimed the Salugpungan teaches basic education in the morning and rifle orientation at night. Other proofs of the Salugpungan’s sinister activities are the alternative version of the Philippine National Anthem being taught at the said schools. A copy of the rebel version of the anthem titled “Lupang Sinira” was seized by troops at the STTICLC in Barangay Mangayon, Compostela Valley in 2014.

It is appalling the CPP is not only maintaining an armed force, but also has been operating a network of school-by-day, boot-camp-by-night sites a la DepEd. Local DepEd officials’ negligence, if not treachery, has allowed many tribal children to adopt and perpetuate a violent ideology whose ultimate goal is the downfall of the democratic government. They allowed the proliferation of communist campuses that supplied the NPA with fresh recruits.

It will take the dismantling of communist schools in Lumad territories to stop the DepEd doppelganger from victimizing more indigenous communities. The people behind the creation of these Salugpungan facilities must also be made to account for their negligence if not treasonous actions.

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