PHILIPPINES: Manila brands volunteer teachers as ‘terrorists’, say Lumad advocates
By Jean Bell
AUCKLAND (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Volunteer teachers are being maliciously labelled as "terrorists" by the Philippine government while paramilitary and mining activity increases in the country, say visiting indigenous Lumad education advocates.
Fritizi Junance Magbanua, a volunteer teacher and administrator with the Save Our Schools network, says teachers, schools and communities of indigenous peoples are being targeted and labelled as terrorists by the government.
The Save Our Schools network is a collection of 215 community based schools that operate throughout the southern Mindanao island region in the Philippines.
The network is part of community groups and advocates that fight for indigenous peoples rights to "defend their land, right to education, right to self-determination," said Lorena Sigua at a public meeting in Auckland's Peace Place last night.
She is a volunteer at Education Development Institute (EDI) curriculum development based in Mindanao.
Auckland Philippines Solidarity, a group sponsoring the visit of the Lumads to New Zealand, also launched an "open letter" to the Philippine government at the meeting, supporting a campaign by human rights defenders for the indigenous schools.
The letter called on the Philippine government to immediately scrap the "baseless, malicious and arbitrary terrorist listing of community activists".
Magbanua said: “Save Our Schools has documented 89 harassments of our schools, 18 military activities inside our school vicinity, 27 schools forcibly shut down because of the intensifying military presence in our area.”
This does not just apply to school teachers. “The environmental activists, human rights activists are also being targeted and tagged as terrorists,” said Sigua.