The rampage in Surigao del Sur by paramilitary forces on Sept. 1 that killed three people raises serious security concerns on children and staff of other alternative learning centers in Mindanao.
Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER), said that the utter failure of the Aquino government and local authorities to stem the relentless attacks on Lumad schools emboldens the perpetrators of Lumad killings to target more victims and escalates the humanitarian crisis in Mindanao.
The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) is currently operating six (6) learning centers for child laborers in Mindanao, Negros Occidental and Bicol region. “We strongly condemn the gruesome killing of Lumad educator Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur as we urge national and local authorities to take urgent action on the spate of Lumad killings happening under their noses,” Escresa-Colina said.
“The continuation of deadly attacks on Lumad schools in Mindanao certainly poses a grave threat to other alternative learning centers including schools, and creates a climate of fear among the already impoverished and displaced children of Mindanao,” she added.
Escresa-Colina said the attack on schools is also an attack on children’s rights, as the escalation of violence against Lumad schools “hampers their learning and denies them the safe and conducive environment which they badly need.” She also said that IP schools provides the space for IP children to -exercise their right to education instead of working in the fields and mines as child laborers.
The child rights advocate also noted that some of their regional staff in the learning Centers had also experienced harassment by paramilitary and military elements in the past. “In our 2 years of project implementation, our regional project staff had experienced multiple cases of harassment from paramilitary groups in the areas,” she said. “They would insist on sitting in community meetings and disrupt classes with their presence in the learning centers in a full battle gear. Clearly, this inflicts fear to our students,” she added.
“Matters in alternative learning centers in Mindanao have gone worse. This carnage affecting children and communities must be stopped,” Escresa-Colina said. #