Save our Schools Network (SOS) held a press conference in the College of Education, University of the Philippines in Quezon City on November 15 to protest the ongoing Martial law in Mindanao and any proposals for a third extension as the deadline at the end of 2018 draws near.
The group called on child’s rights advocates to join them to protest Martial Law in Mindanao on Universal Children’s Day celebration this November 20 in UP Diliman.
The group said direct attacks on children rights worsened especially in Mindanao due to the implementation of Martial Law and the president’s open threat to bomb lumad schools last year.
“Despite the fact that the Philippine government ratified UNCRC in 1990, children’s rights are continuously violated and neglected especially under the current government,” said Rius Valle, SOS spokesperson.
According to the United Nation (UN), November 20 is an important date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Also, in 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Children from different sectors suffer from worsening poverty, child labor, child trafficking and became victims of Oplan Tokhang,” Valle said.
Valle also said that the Children’s Day Celebration, will not be happy for the children especially in Mindanao where the Martial law has been in force since May 2017.
In the press conference, Mayla Gantangan, 13 yrs old student of CLANS Lumad Community School said that President Duterte should respect their right to live and their right to education.
“Our families and communities are under threat because of Martial Law. The bombing in our school disrupt our education. We are displaced from our own land because of the military operation,” Gantangan added.
Martial law extension threat to children, human rights violations
SOS Network strongly oppose the possible extension of Martial Law in Mindanao for 2019 that they say will cause more human rights violations against the Lumad.
Gantangan said they do not want another Martial Law extension in their communities so they can return to cultivate their own lands and to continue their education.
Based on the group’s records, 535 cases of attacks on Lumad schools were registered since the Martial law was declared last 2017. This has affected 2,460 Lumad students, teachers and parents.
“These cases refute the statement of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año that there are no abuses by the military and police during Martial Law in Mindanao,” Valle added.
The group also reiterated the killings of two Lumad students and eight members of parent-teachers-community associations (PTCA) of schools.
Added to this were the 111 cases of trumped up charges and illegal arrest of teachers and PTCA members and the 2,400 cases of Lumad students and teachers being forced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to surrender as members of the New Peoples’ Army.
“These communities and schools have been attacked by AFP and paramilitary on the basis of Martial Law. They have suffered unfounded claims of red tagging these schools as communist fronts. This has deprived children and Lumad of their rights and freedoms,” Valled said.
Valle said the motive of extending Martial Law is not peace and order, but pacifying and clearing out communities for the expansion of large scale mining and agri-plantations in Mindanao.
“President Duterte is pushing for business over services, foreigners over the Filipino and Lumad. We should not blindly accept these lies and fake scenario of building peace. We should resist another Martial Law extension and push for the restoration of peace for the Lumad communities,” he said.