The Department of Education (DepEd) on Sunday assured the public that its actions on Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (Salugpungan) issue aim to ensure the protection of the children and upholding their right to quality education at all times.
In a statement, the DepEd stressed it is mandated to regulate the establishment and recognition of private schools in the basic education level, which proceeds from both the Constitution and relevant statutes.
“The operation of schools in basic education requires the prior authorization by DepEd, which for private schools is expressed by way of permit or recognition. As stated by the Supreme Court, this is ‘pursuant to the State policy that educational programs and/or operations shall be of good quality and therefore shall at least satisfy minimum standards with respect to curricula, teaching staff, physical plant and facilities, and of administrative or management viability,” the statement read.
With such authorization subject to continuing regulation, the DepEd could suspend or revoke any permit or recognition if a school falls short of the minimum requirements or any of the conditions for continuing recognition is violated by the institution.
These requirements include curriculum standards, teaching methods, records management, grading system, teacher qualifications, and school site and facilities.
For private schools serving indigenous peoples (IP) learners where the site is within ancestral domain, the proof of ownership or possession must include an agreement between the learning institution and the IP community on the use of the property situated within the ancestral domain.
Moreover, the curriculum standards must follow those set by DepEd — the K to 12 curriculum while “certain flexibilities are afforded for IP schools to integrate indigenous learning, such flexibility does not extend to instruction of matters that are in contravention of law”.
“Certainly, allowing a school in basic education, catering mainly to minors, to be used for recruitment in armed insurgency violates the curriculum standards of the DepEd,” the statement added.
On September 20, Assistant Regional Director and OIC of DepEd Region 11 Evelyn Fetalvero approved the recommendation of the fact-finding committee for the closure of the private schools operated by the Salugpungan.
The Commission on Human Rights, through a statement by Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana on October 7, 2019, expressed “concern over the continued closure of Lumad schools in the Davao Region”.
“Protection of children from all forms of abuse and violence should not come at the expense of their other rights, such as the right to education,” Pimentel-Gana said.
On October 9, 2019, the Save our Schools Network (SOS) said “such move is tantamount to disenfranchisement of thousands of Lumad children to their right to education” and that Salugpungan was not given due process.
The SOS is a network of organizations that includes Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Gabriela, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers Party-list, ACT, Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Ibon International, Ibon, Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia, and Salugpongan International.
Due Process Observed
Earlier, the DepEd received a report from National Security Adviser Germogenes Esperon Jr., seeking the closure of the Salugpungan schools because “some students were already taught to dismantle and assemble firearms” and that “some students were not allowed to go home and they were controlled by the administrator and teachers of Salugpungan”.
Pursuant to Administrative Code of 1987, Education Secretary Leonor Briones directed the Office of the Regional Director to suspend the Salugpungan schools, pending investigation and recommendation on the matter by the regional director.
“The DepEd emphasizes that the suspension directed by the Secretary is not in the nature of a penalty. It was a precautionary measure for the protection of the students pending the investigation and resolution of the matter by the regional Ooffice,” the statement read.
Children’s right to education, protected
The DepEd stressed that “it has taken all possible steps to ensure that the right of the children to education is protected throughout the process”.
It added that Briones “made sure the regional office shall make the proper arrangements with the Divisions and schools within the areas served by the Salugpungan schools, to assist and admit all students that may be displaced as a result of the suspension, even with the unavailability or insufficiency of the required transfer credentials, and to reconstruct the records in the course of their enrollment in DepEd schools”.
Citing that its regional office has accounted for 1,000 out of the 1,142 learners recorded in the area via the DepEd’s Learners Information System For School Year 2018-2019, the DepEd stressed that no learner was deprived of education because of the closure of the Salugpungan schools.
To intensify its delivery of services, the DepEd reported that it has opened additional new schools, converted existing elementary schools into integrated schools, and mobilized local inter-agency coordination and convergence of efforts in most of the areas where Salugpungan schools were situated.
“Secretary Briones herself visited Talaingod in August this year to personally see the situation of learners and teachers, hear from them, and ensure that their education needs are addressed. Datu Gibang Apoga, chieftain of the Ata-Manobo, thanked Secretary Briones for visiting. According to him, it has always been his dream that all children in Talaingod will have access to quality basic education,” the DepEd said.
According to DepEd, the National Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) Program is the government’s response to the right of indigenous peoples (IP) communities to basic education that is sensitive to their context, respects their identities, and promotes the value of their indigenous knowledge, competencies, and other aspects of their cultural heritage.
“The public should not lose sight of the broader context that DepEd actually serves a much bigger area for IP education than the Salugpungan areas that have received greater media attention,” the DepEd said.
Through the IPEd Program, DepEd supports education initiatives undertaken through formal, non-formal and informal modalities.
Initiatives under the IPEd program cover the establishment of dialogue mechanisms with IP communities, curriculum contextualization, mother tongue-based Multilingual Education, and teacher hiring and capacity development of DepEd personnel.
As of school year 2018-2019, there is a total of 2,593,555 IP learners in the entire public school system, about 170,000 of them are enrolled in 1,897 public schools nationwide.
To strengthen the enabling condition for culture-based education, the DepEd has emphasized the importance of managing the IPEd Program through a long-term partnership with IP communities at all governance levels.
“The department will continue to consult, engage, and partner with IP elders and communities to further strengthen the program and ensure that the education system is truly inclusive, the learning environment is safe and conducive, and the right of every Filipino learner to quality basic education is upheld, promoted and safeguarded,” the DepEd said. (PNA)