MANILA – Some tribal leaders on Thursday urged the government to shut down learning centers that were allegedly used by communist rebels to recruit youth in the south.
State troops last week claimed the Salugpungan schools for indigenous tribes were used by the Communist Party of the Philippines to turn the youth against the government.
Former lawmaker Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, whom the military tagged as "active" CPP members, were arrested Wednesday for allegedly kidnapping minors from a Salugpungan school in Davao Del Norte, an accusation they denied.
Datu Joel Unad, Chairman of Mindanao Indigenous People Council of Elders, said some 70 schools for the Lumad have been infiltrated by communist rebels.
"Kung hindi ma-resolve yan at andyan pa rin ang CPP-NPA, magdeclare kami ng tribal war against the CPP-NPA," Unad told reporters after meeting with military officials.
"Walang respeto ang mga iyan sa tribu. Hindi sila maniwala sa aming kultura. Marami na pinatay na katutubo yan," he added.
(If this is not resolved and the CPP-NPA remains there, we would declare tribal war against them. They have no respect for the tribe. They don't believe in our culture. They have killed many indigenous people.)
Tribal leaders and members from Mindanao claim they are being recruited, educated and exploited by CPP-NPA for years. They were presented by the AFP to the media as alleged proof of Satur Ocampo’s communist activities in the south. pic.twitter.com/Gb1AbX0lc1
— Ron Gagalac (@rongagalac) December 6, 2018
Unad and several other tribal leaders, in their meeting with the military, asked for protection against communist recruitment.
“They are schools where students are being indoctrinated to fight the government," said the military's public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato.
Tribal leader Datu Asinad Bago said he was among those taught to rebel against the government in the Lumad schools.
"Doon ko natutunan magbasa, magsulat, magkwenta at mag-dismantle ng armas,” he said.
(It's there that I learned to read, write, count and dismantle arms.)
"Mga subject namin na nandun abakada, A sa armas, B sa bala. Doon din matututunan paano mag-rally, magsabi ng sinungaling at asta sa gobyerno," he added.
(We were also taught the alphabet, where A stands for arms, and B is for bullet. How to mount rallies can also be learned there, how to lie and act against the government.)
Parents were not aware that the schools would indoctrinate children against the government, added tribal leader Datu Jumar Bucalis.
Lumad teacher Magdalena Gano, meanwhile, admitted to having recruited several children for communism.
"Ako nag-recruit ng mga bata sa iba't ibang lugar, iba't ibang barangay. Dalhin namin mga bata doon paaralin. Sa edad na 18, kukunin na ng NPA at ifu-full time na nila," she said,
(I recruited children from various areas, villages. We brought them to the schools. At the age of 18, they were recruited by the NPA as full time members.)
Up to 80 percent of NPA rebels in Mindanao are from various tribes, claimed indigenous leader Bae Diwata.
"Kung hindi mapasara lahat, mauubos mga kabataan namin," she said.
(If all these schools are not closed, our youth would be wiped out.)
If Salugpungan centers are closed, students will simply have to transfer to state-run schools, said Detoyato.
Leftist leaders Castro and Ocampo earlier denied that Salubungan centers are teaching children to fight the government.
The Department of Education, for its part, said it did not order the closure of any school serving indigenous peoples in the Davao region.