Correcting the Injustices Against the Lumad Schools

Co-Authored with Vanessa Vergara

‘In light of all the issues plaguing the Lumad and Lumad schools, we have prepared the following recommendations for the consideration of the House of Representatives and other government agencies’

The following is Part 2 of a two-part series. You may read Part 1 here.

The February 15 incident is just one among many of the targeted attacks against Lumad schools, which have seen an alarming rise in the past four years. These attacks are generally connected with the red-tagging of Lumad schools. These constitute grave violations of human rights that are protected by international law and Philippine laws.

In carrying out the illegal raid and mass arrest, the police and military violated the right of the evacuees to liberty and security, and their right against arbitrary arrest and detention, which are recognized rights of all persons under the 1987 Constitution and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Violations of International Law

Article 3 of the UDHR states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person.” Article 9 of the same declaration likewise provides:  “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.” Article 9(1) of the ICCPR made respecting the foregoing right into a treaty obligation: “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

The actions of the police and military also violate recognized rights of children and indigenous people in particular, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (Republic Act No. 8371 or the IPRA), and the Child and Youth Welfare Code (Presidential Decree No.  603).

Article 37(b) of the CRC provides that “States Parties shall ensure that… [n]o child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily.” In turn, Article 3 of the Child and Youth Welfare Code states: “Every child has the right to grow up as a free individual, in an atmosphere of peace, understanding, tolerance, and universal brotherhood.”

For indigenous peoples, Article 7(1) of the UNDRIP is also explicit: “Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty, and security of person.” Further, Section 21 of the IPRA provides that “the State shall, with due recognition of their distinct characteristics and identity, accord to [indigenous people] the rights, protections, and privileges enjoyed by the rest of the citizenry.” 

The government’s persistent efforts to shut down Lumad schools is itself an offense against the right to education enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, the UDHR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESC), the CRC, and the Child and Youth Welfare Code.

Further, it is a violation of the right of indigenous people to enjoy educational systems and institutions that are appropriate for their culture and address their special needs, as recognized under the UNDRIP, the International Labor Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO 169), and the IPRA. 

It is also a violation of the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (Republic Act No. 7610 or RA 7610). Under Section 18 of RA7610, referring especially to children from indigenous cultural communities, the law provides: “The [DepEd] shall develop and institute an alternative system of education for children of indigenous cultural communities which is culture-specific and relevant to the needs of and the existing situation in their communities. The [DepEd] shall also accredit and support non-formal but functional indigenous educational programs conducted by non-government organizations in said communities.” In connection with the protection accorded to children as zones of peace, Section 22 of RA 7610 provides that, in areas of armed conflict, “[d]elivery of basic social services such as education, primary health, and emergency relief services shall be kept unhampered” and “[t]he safety and protection of those who provide services…shall be ensured. They shall not be subjected to undue harassment in the performance of their work.”

Disregard for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

The persistent red-tagging of the Lumad and Lumad schools is a violation of the rights of indigenous people to be free from any kind of discrimination based on their indigenous identity, and to live in freedom, peace, and security – as recognized in Articles 2 and 7 of the UNDRIP. As well, it is an indication of how the government falls short of its duty, under Articles 2 and 5 of ILO 169, to implement measures for the full realization of the social, economic, and cultural rights of indigenous peoples and to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are protected “with due account…taken of the nature of the problems which face them.” It is also a violation of the IPRA.

Section 31 of the IPRA holds: “the State shall take effective measures…to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding, and good relations among [indigenous people] and all segments of society.” In connection with the importance of encouraging, and not criminalizing, the participation of indigenous youth in the country’s affairs, Section 27 of the IPRA states: “The State shall recognize the vital role of the children and youth of [indigenous people] in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. Towards this end, the State shall support all government programs intended for the development and rearing of the children and youth of [indigenous people] for civic efficiency and establish such mechanisms as may be necessary for the protection of the rights of the indigenous children and youth.”

Recommendations to Congress

We laud the House Committee on Human Rights, especially its Chair Quezon City Representative Jesus “Bong” Suntay for his fair and even-handed approach, for its timely investigation into the matter. There were definitely many issues brought to light during the hearing which deserve to be addressed in future legislation.

In light of all the issues plaguing the Lumad and Lumad schools, we have prepared the following recommendations for the consideration of the House of Representatives and other government agencies.

For the House of Representatives: 

  • Launch an investigation into the prevalence of paramilitary groups in Mindanao, and the connection of these groups with the military.
  • Call for the disarmament and disbandment of paramilitary groups.
  • Prohibit military occupation in communities.
  • Call for the dissolution of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The NTF-ELCAC, rather than fulfilling its role of protecting the country against terrorists and armed conflict, has only contributed to the perpetuation of lies and the increase of targeted acts of violence against the Filipino people.

For both Congress and the Department of Justice:

  • Launch an investigation into the practice of filing trumped-up criminal charges against members, volunteers, and supporters of Lumad schools and bakwit sanctuaries, and issue resolutions/recommendations to condemn and discourage the said practice.
  • Review and cause the dismissal of trumped-up criminal cases against members, volunteers, and supporters of Lumad schools and bakwit sanctuaries pending before the DOJ and prosecutor’s offices.

For the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples:

  • Fulfill its role as the protector and promoter of the interests and well-being of indigenous people, and support and defend Lumad schools and bakwit sanctuaries.
  • Condemn the red-tagging and the commission of attacks against the Lumad and their supporters.
  • Conduct a more thorough study of the meaning, usage, and history of the term “Lumad,” and recall NCIP Resolution 08-009-2021.

For the Department of Education:

  • Support the continued education of indigenous people and the development of Lumad schools. Recognize the valuable contribution of Lumad schools to the growth and progress of indigenous communities and of the country.
  • Conduct a more thorough investigation into the alleged claims that Lumad schools are rebel training grounds and/or affiliated with the CPP-NPA-NDF. Thereafter, recall Resolutions closing Lumad schools as a result of red-tagging.
  • Provide Lumad schools a reasonable time to comply with DepEd requirements for the issuance of school permits.
  • Grant permits for the operation of qualified Lumad schools for the upcoming school year, and thereafter continue to grant permits/certificates of recognition for successive school years, for as long as Lumad schools meet the requirements under the law and DepEd rules.

For the Armed Forces of the Philippines/ Philippine National Police:

  • Stop the commission of acts of violence and harassment against the Lumad and their supporters.
  • Respect Lumad schools as zones of peace. Stop the practice of conducting military activities in or near Lumad schools.
  • Release Lumad and their supporters who are being illegally detained, and stop the commission of further acts of illegal detention.

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