Tribal communities in Davao del Norte wanted the schools, which the Philippine National Police (PNP) referred to as providing a “different” education to children, closed due to their radical influence on them.
Members of Ata-Manobo communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte once welcomed the schools known in their communities as “salugpungan” schools, but they soon found out that what they thought was a blessing “brought them a curse.”
Salugpungan schools were supposedly used as schools to teach communism to young tribesmen
About 900 Ata-Manobos denounced the recruitment of minors to join the New People’s Army (NPA) through the schools.
Capt. John Louie Dema-ala, information officer of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion (IB), said the Ata-Manobo tribesmen, coming from various parts of Talaingod, gathered in front of the Talaingod Police Station where former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) partylist Rep. Francisca Castro and six of their companions were detained earlier.
Their ancestral domain was used to build guerilla bases.
Ocampo and eight others were held for violating Republic Act 10364 in relation to RA 7610 for kidnapping and failure to return a minor.
The group of Ocampo was apprehended at a checkpoint for carrying minors without the necessary parental consent, a clear violation of RA 10364 in relation to RA 7610.
The militant lawmaker and his companions were allowed to post bail.
The tribesmen were led by Talaingod Tribal Chieftain Datu Guibang Apoga, founder of Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center.
The tribal leader left the “Salugpungan” last June.
Apoga cited his own personal experience against the group of Ocampo, whom he accused of working to “convince their children to become NPA warriors and anti-government activists.”
“Moreover, he (Apoga) added that their ancestral domain was used to build guerilla bases,” Dema-ala said.
On the other hand, salugpungan schools were supposedly used as schools to teach communism to young tribesmen.
The protest was also participated in by Datu Lipatoan Joel Onad and Datu Jorge Balingas Mandahay, board officers of the Mindanao Indigenous People Council of Elders and Leaders.
Onad and Mandahay also denounced Ocampo and his companions and they demanded the closure of the salugpungan.
Ocampo’s group confronted
A video provided Daily Tribune showed Lumad leaders confronted Ocampo and Castro for bringing the young members of the tribe in learning centers being used by the NPA to brainwash them into fighting the government.
The confrontation belied Ocampo’s claim that his group was conducting a rescue mission when his group was accosted at a police checkpoint.
They’re taught the right curriculum in the day but differently at night.
A video showed Datu Andigao Agay and Municipal Executive Tribal Chieftain Bae Pilar Libayao confronting the group of Ocampo.
Both assailed the group of Ocampo for bringing their children without the permission of the tribe.
“Why were they taking them (children) at midnight, what is the problem? Is there a war happening in the mountains?” Libayao told the group of Ocampo.
Agay also told Ocampo’s group not to bring the children along with them.
He said that a Lumad child who Ocampo’s group is trying to bring with them had refused to go to the salugpungan schools.
“Leave the children alone because they told us that they don’t want your school anymore,” Agay told Ocampo’s group.
Sibogan claimed having witnessed armed men dropping by such schools and allegedly accommodated by the salugpungan teachers.
“Just consider that students were being killed, our datus were killed and there were several of them. Everytime you go here, there’s a war that happens,” he said.
Agay said elder members of the tribe don’t really want the Lumad children to study at salugpungan.
“I understand that what they are doing in the movement is not good,” he said.
On Thursday, Ocampo and Castro were charged for violation of Republic Act 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act” for transporting 14 minors without the consent of their parents.
A spokesman for the Talaingod Tribal Council of Elders, Datu Lumansad Sibogan, admitted having been part of putting up salugpungan schools some years back.
He then thought that having such schools, especially in far-flung Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, would serve well for the young Ata Manobos who then had no schools to go to.
In two interviews with the Philippine Information Agency, Sibogan expressed having good faith in the salugpungan, an Ata Manobo term meaning unity, but he has withdrawn his support after finding out such schools were influenced by the NPA.
Armed men in schools
Sibogan claimed having witnessed armed men dropping by the schools and allegedly accommodated by the salugpungan teachers. He knew them as NPA commanders because he was once a rebel recruit.
Despite this behind the classroom reality, he noted students were learning. However, he feared about the mindset that such schools were developing among the young people.
He said students in the salugpungan were taught how to dismantle firearms. He once had a chance to observe them doing such during the students’ night session.
“They’re taught the right curriculum in the day, but differently at night. Upon graduating, they’d have a confused mind,” he said, sharing his thoughts in an interview before his group staged a protest action against twisted education and against arming children.
His group also protested over activities of NGO (non-government organization) with no consent from tribal leaders.
Sibogan was citing the recently reported entry of NGO personalities accompanied by Ocampo and Castro in tribal communities of Talaingod allegedly on eight vans with children on board identified as students of salugpugan schools.
Sibogan expressed concern over mothers who were looking for their children later found to be among those on board the vans held at a checkpoint of the Talaingod Municipal Police Station.
He cautioned those NGO personalities “not to come back otherwise something will happen to them.”