“Palayasin ang militar sa kabukiran! Palayasin! Palayain si Amelia Pond! Palayain!”
These were the cries heard yesterday, Aug. 25, outside the regional office of Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI as indigenous people (IPs) from different communities in Southern Mindanao together with the administration of the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. – Stticlci peacefully rallied to demand the release of Amelia Pond and the pullout of military troops in IP schools.
Despite the cold treatment given to them during their demonstration, Save our Schools Network spokesperson Rius Valle still hopes for a positive response from DepEd regarding these issues.
“We will appreciate any help from the DepEd to justify the identity of Amelia Pond. She has been active in promoting and creating IP education curriculum. Nakakalungkot lang kasi hindi pa talaga nila kami pormal na napapakinggan,” he said.
Amelia Pond, the Fields Operations Officer of the Salugpongan School, was arrested last Aug 19 in Cebu City through an arrest warrant that was allegedly not for her. She is currently detained at CIDG- Cebu City.
Rius Valle defined this arrest as an attempt to sabotage the ongoing peace talks. At the same time, it was also considered as a pitfall in the education improvement of IP students over the years.
Moreover, even the New People’s Army (NPA) Southern Mindanao Region condemned Pond’s arrest. In the press statement they released last Aug. 23, they wanted president Duterte to drop the trumped-up charges against Pond and immediately release her from detainment. They also stated that Duterte should order to expedite the freedom of the suffering civilians, Lumads, peasants and other workers.
Aside from this, leaders from the IP communities expressed their complaints against the continuous military occupation in their respective places and lumad schools. Datu Sonny Gimboloy of Side 4 Compostela Valley questioned the validity of the ongoing peace talks.
“Madungog nato sa balita ang nagapanghitabo nga peace talks kunuhay. Naka-ingon ko nga kunuhay kay hangtod karon, padayun ang militarisasyon sa mga komunidad ilabina didto sa Compostela Valley,” Gimboloy said.
“Nalipay mi nga si Pangulong Duterte na ang naglingkod kay kabalo jud siya sa mga mulo sa mga Lumad. Apan ang problema, naa gihapoy mga sundalo nga gahi ug ulo, “ the Datu explained.
The activity is part of the weeklong Region-wide Kampuhan, which is a series of Lumad and peasants rallies and government agency hopping. The event started last Aug. 23 and was headed by the BAYAN- PASAKA- KMP of the Southern Mindanao Region.
More programs will be held at different government offices until this weekend.
(sources: News Release by Save Our Schools Network – Aug 25 & Press Release of NPA-SMROC – Aug 23)