The Educators’ Forum for Development (EfD), a network of 100 schools nationwide advocating transformative education, commended the more than 2,000 Lumad evacuees on the reclaiming of their homes and ancestral land in Bgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The group said that this also signifies initial steps towards the rebuilding of Lumad alternative schools and continuation of the education disrupted by attacks from military and paramilitary groups.
“The return to their homes and ancestral land is a testament to the unified strength and campaign of the Lumad people, people’s organizations and concerned groups and supporters. These organized efforts can now be directed towards not only rebuilding the communities but the alternative schools the Lumads worked so hard to construct and operate”, said EfD.
EfD noted that among the Lumad communities and schools under attack by government and paramilitary forces are those located in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, which has been targeted by large-scale mining corporations for its gold, coal, and chromite. The group reiterated its concern that the continuous harassment and killings against indigenous peoples has grossly affected the operation of community-built alternative schools and the education of indigenous children. The situation has escalated to the point that even educators are targeted, harassed and killed, said the group.
The return of the Lumad evacuees is in time with the first year commemoration of the Lianga massacre. Last September 1, 2015, Emerito “Emok” Samarca, school executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Livelihood and Agricultural Development (ALCADEV), and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo were killed by members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group. The Lumad residents, and ALCADEV students and teachers were forced to evacuate, and their homes and school destroyed. The perpetrators remain at large, while troops of the 75th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army encamped at Bgy. Diatagon in Lianga only recently pulled out of the community.
EfD urged the administration of Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte to respect and support the Lumad evacuees in the rehabilitation of their communities and the alternative schools they have built. The Duterte government must also put a stop to military and paramilitary presence and attacks against all Lumad and indigenous people’s communities and schools, said EfD. ###