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Davao City, Philippines

DepEd 11 shuts down 55 Salugpungan schools

October 08, 2019 - Tuesday 6:10 PM by Ruth Palo

Article Banner Image Learners make do with a makeshift table at the “bakwit school” at the Haran Compound in Davao City. Arjoy M. Ceniza

DAVAO CITY -- Four months after suspending their permit to operate, the Department of Education (DepEd) 11 has ordered the permanent closure of 55 Indigenous Peoples (IP) schools under the Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLC) in Davao Region.

This came after the five-man Ad Hoc Fact Finding Committee submitted its decision to the Office of the DepEd 11 officer-in-charge regional director Evelyn Fetalvero on September 5, 2019.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, DepEd 11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said the Ad Hoc Fact Finding Committee was created to conduct an investigation into all the allegations against the operation of the Salugpungan schools.

“It is with regret to inform you that all schools under the Salugpungan are hereby ordered closed,” Atillo said. 

DepEd had suspended the permit to operate of the 55 IP schools on July 10, 2019 based on the instruction of Education Secretary Leonor Briones on June 1, 2019 due to their failure to comply with the requirements set down by the DepEd for private schools to be given a permit to operate.

Photo taken at bakwit school inside UCCP Haran Compound Barangay 8A Davao City. ARJOY M. CENIZA

“It is in compliance with the memorandum order on June 1, 2019 issued by Honorable Secretary Leonor Briones for DepEd 11 to conduct an investigation,” Atillo added.

The requirements before a permit to operate is issued include the following: the school site must be permanent and titled; schools should have facilities; teachers should be qualified; the curriculum is consistent with the DepEd curriculum; and the school should be subject to regulation and inspection of the DepEd officials.

In a previous interview, Briones said it was common practice by the Salugpungan schools to negotiate for a permit even if they are not qualified, and that temporary permits were issued on the promise that the requirements would be met in the following year.

For the past several years, DepEd has been granting Salugpungan schools temporary permits, but Briones said this should not be allowed to continue as the schools have failed to comply with the requirements.

Briones had instructed Fetalvero to issue a suspension order of any existing permit, recognition, or certificate granted to Salugpungan schools pending the investigation and recommendation.

Atillo said the fact-finding team found that Salugpungan schools have violated some of the DepEd policies which are the basis for closure.

Among these were their failure to comply with curriculum standards set by the department, the schools bringing their students away from their home without the consent of their parents and using them to generate funds by making them perform the plight of the Lumad in violation of DepEd child protection policy or DepEd order number 40, series of 2012.

Atillo also said teachers of Salugpungan schools are not passers of the licensure examinations for teachers, and classes of the core learning areas are conducted by learning facilitators in violation of DepEd order number 21, series of 2014.

Likewise, the Salugpungan schools have been operating within the ancestral domain of the IP community without obtaining the Mandatory Pre Prior Informed Consent (MPPIC) of the concerned IP community and the subsequent certification precondition from the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Photo taken at bakwit school inside UCCP Haran Compound Barangay 8A Davao City. ARJOY M. CENIZA

Some students of Salugpungan also do not have DepEd learners reference number which is in violation of the requirement under DepEd order number 26, series of 2015.

Atillo said Salugpungan also misrepresented its enrolled data, which do not match the data found in the learners information system.

Atillo emphasized that DepEd 11 strictly enforced due process of law prior to the release of the recommendation, saying Salugpungan was given 10 days to answer all the allegations through a show cause order.

“The show cause order was issued on July 12, 2019 and they were given five days to answer but they appealed for an extension,” he said.

Atillo said the fact-finding team also considered the reports submitted to the DepEd by National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, chair of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Esperon's report alleged that the institution was teaching "left-leaning ideologies," encouraging students to rebel against the government, and using children for rallies.

The school's modules were also reportedly not in accordance with DepEd's curriculum.

According to Atillo, the closure order has already been received by Mary Grace Matibay, a Salugpungan teacher, on October 7, 2019.

Atillo said with the permanent closure of Salugpungan schools, all students will be handed over to DepEd schools division offices for proper custody.

However, Atillo, said the Salugpungan schools could appeal the closure order in accordance with policy.

“This is not actually the endpoint of everything because they can still appeal to the Office of the Secretary,” Atillo said.

Atillo said that since the suspension order was implemented, the department had already catered to 1,000 Salugpungan learners enrolled in DepEd run schools in Davao.

He said the department has established 193 school buildings serving IP learners especially in areas where there are Salugpungan and other private learning institutions across the region.

Atillo said of the 55 Salugpungan schools in the school year 2018-2019, only 28 applied for a permit to operate this school year 2019-2020.

For her part, Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. Executive Director Maria Eugenia Nolasco called on DepEd to re-examine its decision.

“We call on the DepEd to re-examine these closures and to seek open dialogue with Lumads communities. Solutions to complex problems such as these closures are trying to address cannot be one-note—they require study, cooperation, and a proper assessment of a community’s needs and problems. As such, government agencies must work in tandem to ensure all rights are protected and fulfilled, without sacrificing one for another,” Nolasco said in a statement released on Monday.