Carlos H. Conde, InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines – The soldiers descended on the Lumad (tribal) villages of Lianga where, according to human rights and tribal groups, they put up checkpoints that restricted the movement of residents and imposed a blockade that severely constrained the food supply to the communities.
The militarization of the villages in Lianga and two other towns of Surigao del Sur, in the southern Philippines, in 2008 and 2009 also forced hundreds of villagers to evacuate.
The children at two schools specially built for the Manobo tribe – the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development and the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur – suffered the most as a result of the militarization, according to advocacy groups. Because of the food blockade, children went to school on empty or half-empty stomachs. Worse, classes had to be suspended.
Soldiers also descended on the school itself, where they supposedly harassed and taunted students and teachers, according to a report first published in the online news site Bulatlat.com. Worse, the military branded the two schools, which have won recognition from the government and are run by a Lumad organization called Mapasu with the cooperation of the local Catholic diocese and the NGO Sildap, “communist fronts.”
What happened to the two tribal schools are emblematic – and in some sense an extreme case study – of a phenomenon in the Philippines and elsewhere of government and rebel forces occupying schools, disrupting not only the learning process of the students, but the lives of whole communities as well.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, in an annual report on children and armed conflict he delivered to the UN Security Council and made public Thursday, revealed that 15 of the 22 “country situations” the UN monitored involved attacks on schools and hospitals.
“I am concerned about the increasing trend of attacks on schools and hospitals,” Ban said in the report.
His special representative on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said “2010 proved another tragic year for children in conflicts all over the world.”
A statement on the report released by Coomaraswamy’s office said “direct and physical damage to schools seems to be the most reoccurring violation, but there are also reported incidents of closure of schools and hospitals as a result of direct threats and intimidation, military occupation. Schools are often used as recruiting groups for children.”
The Philippines stands out in the report because, unlike other countries where insurgents are the ones attacking schools, soldiers are the worst violators, according to the UN report.
Read full article @ InterAksyon.com
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