Recent arrest of Lumad teacher, part of Duterte regime’s continuing attacks vs indigenous communities

Duterte has relentlessly put the Lumad under attack - their communities bombed and militarized, their schools threatened, and their teachers subjected to trumped-up charges, among other forms of rights violations. The recent arrest of a volunteer teacher in South Cotabato is indicative of a continuing systematic attack on indigenous communities, directed and funded by counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and worsened by the martial law implementation in Mindanao,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

 

On February 7, 2018, elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 (MBLT 2), along with two barangay officials, escorted a volunteer teacher of the Center for Lumad Advocacy Networking Services Inc. (CLANS) Lumad community school in Sitio Tinagdanan, Barangay Hinalaan, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. Jolita Tolino, 24, a Dulangan Manobo, was taken to the barangay hall of Brgy. Sangay and was interrogated. She was brought to the MBLT 2 camp before she was transferred to the Kalamansig police station.

Inside the police station, Tolino was again interrogated. She was asked about CLANS, and if its teachers have guns. Tolino denied all accusations insinuating that the Lumad schools under CLANS are teaching students to use firearms, and firmly answered that they have a well-rounded and grounded curriculum. The next day, the volunteer teacher was transferred to the Isulan Jail in Sultan Kudarat for trumped-up cases of murder and frustrated murder.

Palabay noted that this is just the latest among a string of legal offensives against volunteer teachers, development workers, and human rights defenders. “It is important to emphasize that these alternative schools remain a stark evidence of the government’s continued negligence to provide basic social services to the people. The initiative of communities, organizations, and individuals to provide such services are to be considered forms of resistance that should be acknowledged, not attacked,” she added.

Karapatan also linked the aforementioned case to a series of verbal directives uttered by Duterte, which have severe repercussions on the ground. “Threats to bomb Lumad schools, openly red-tagging local organizations, among others, have merely emboldened state forces to perpetrate more abuses. Meanwhile, conditions which have caused unrest in many peasant and indigenous communities remain, even exacerbated by the repressive and neoliberal policies put forward by the Duterte regime,” Palabay said.