by Ronel Campos |
A group of alumni from an alternative school of Lumads in Surigao del Sur appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to respect the rights of the indigenous people and the protection of their alma mater from military operations.
During their second general assembly last December 2011, the ALCADEV Agricultural Extension Workers (AAEW) made a resolution to call on the president to investigate the violations incurred by the Armed Forces of the Philippines during its previous operations in the province.
AAEW are graduates of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), an alternative school established in 2004 to serve underprivileged students from indigenous communities in the Caraga Region.
ALCADEV was established through the efforts of the local people’s organization Malahutayong Pakigibisog alang sa Sumusunod (Persevere in the Struggle for the Next Generation) or MAPASU and Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur.
Its work is not only recognized by local organizations and governement officials, but also supported by international organizations. As recognition of ALCADEV’s service, St. Scholastica College Manila forged partnership with ALCADEV. Aside from educating indigenous youth, ALCADEV is also implementing food security programs in indigenous communities in Caraga.
The seven years of service of the school in the hinterlands of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, however, have been persistently disrupted by military operations. The school has always been a target of the military’s vilification campaign. The military is alleging that the school is a training ground of communist rebels.
The allegation against the school is being used by the military to justify its operations around and within the school grounds. The military operations in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 have resulted to the evacuation of the communities school and the school community itself.
Despite the continuing intimidation and harassment of the school and the indigenous communities, the school take pride of its graduates who decided to cultivate their learnings from ALCADEV. Most ALCADEV alumni volunteered as para-teachers , para-agriculturists and community health workers in indigenous communities in the region.
For decades, mining and logging companies have been plundering the resources of the Andap Valley which the Lumads consider their ancestral land. ALCADEV asserts that the operation of these companies have not improved the livelihood and economy of the Lumads in the province. Military operations have been launched in the indigenous communities to quell resistance and pave the way to further the operation of logging and mining companies in the area.
The graduates of ALCADEV who are now volunteer of ALCADEV and TRIFPSS in providing education and health services in indigenous communities in the region formed the AAEW in 2010 to have a venue where they can share their experiences as volunteer workers.
Like when they were still students of ALCADEV, they experience the harassment and intimidation perpetrated by military personnel during operations in their areas. They lament the fact that they are serving their communities and yet they are being vilified as rebels by the military.
They appeal to the president to investigate and make measures to stop the continuing violations to their rights as indigenous peoples. They also ask the government to support their cause to improve the literacy among Lumads and the food security in the hinterlands of Caraga and uphold their rights to their ancestral land.
RESPECT OUR RIGHTS TO EDUCATION AND FOOD SECURITY!
Stop militarization in the hinterlands!