A no-show ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION - (tyvelez@gmail.com)

It was a cat and mouse chase that hap­pened this week in Davao City be­tween Lu­mads and Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Leonor Bri­ones.

The gov­ern­ment news web­site PNA said that Bri­ones was sched­uled to visit on Wed­nes­day lo­cal school su­per­vi­sors at Kap­i­tan To­mas Monteverde El­e­men­tary School, but can­celed it as Lu­mads held a rally to “wel­come” her and to ask for a di­a­logue to help pro­tect their schools from mil­i­ta­riza­tion.

One of the Lu­mad ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates, Rius Valle of the Save Our Schools Net­work, said they had been chas­ing Bri­ones since last year dur­ing the Lu­mad’s Lak­bayan cam­paign.

“When we were in Manila last year and went to her of­fice and she told us she would ad­dress our con­cerns in the lo­cal level,” Valle said.

The group even staged a kam­puhan at the DepEd gates for over a week on Novem­ber, yet no di­a­logue with Bri­ones took place.

Lu­mad school ad­vo­cates wanted to raise two mat­ters to Bri­ones: to re­lease the school per­mits long de­layed for 14 schools, and the scrap­ping of DepEd Memo 221 se­ries of 2013 which al­lows mil­i­tary pres­ence for “pro­tec­tion from armed con­flict.”

For­mer Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Luz Ila­gan pointed out as early as 2015 that this memo un­der­mines the ef­forts to bring ed­u­ca­tion to the Lu­mads, as re­ports of abuse by sol­diers and the para­mil­i­tary in schools ex­pose chil­dren and teach­ers to risk. My pre­vi­ous col­umns pointed out the at­tacks made by the state se­cu­rity to prove the point.

A new memo, DepEd Memo 57 of 2017, was is­sued last Novem­ber amend­ing the Memo 221, and stressed to “con­tinue the pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing times of armed con­flict… and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of con­crete mea­sures to pre­vent the use of schools and at­tacks on schools.”

But a memo doesn’t mean all is well. Valle said a di­a­logue could en­sure the Lu­mads how this will be im­ple­mented, and lis­ten to their in­puts.

And with Bri­ones in town, she still didn’t face the Lu­mad stu­dents, their par­ents and teach­ers. In­stead, the Lu­mads and ad­vo­cates went around the city look­ing for the sec­re­tary, and even went to the ho­tel she was stay­ing.

Bri­ones also failed to meet with the lo­cal ACT Teach­ers of­fi­cers who wanted to raise the need to in­crease their salaries. This af­ter the bud­get sec­re­tary con­tra­dicted the president’ prom­ise of dou­bling salary in­crease, and Bri­ones her­self say­ing public school teach­ers are “well-com­pen­sated”.

With her no-show, there are ques­tions that linger on what the ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary can com­mit to en­sure the se­cu­rity of the Lu­mads in their schools, or the wel­fare of the teach­ers. These are mat­ters that can’t be solved by not show­ing up.

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