MANILA — “Walang eskwelahan, pribado man o pampubliko, na nagpapahintulot sa pagpasok ng kahit sinumang armadong indibidwal o grupo (No school, private or public, has given permission to any armed individual or group to enter its premises),” according to Department of Education (DepEd)Secretary Armin Luistro
Luistro said during a dialogue Tuesday with some Lumad representatives and members of the Save Our Schools Network on the alleged military presence in some schools in Mindanao, said such prohibition was contained under DepEd Memorandum Order 221 issued last year..
DepEd Memorandum 221 entitled “Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict,” provides that armed persons were not allowed to enter school grounds.
“Nakalagay po diyan sa DepEd Memo na iyan ang sistema ng imbestigasyon. Kasama po diyan na hindi lang hanggang division lamang. Kasama po sa prosesong iyan ang monitoring, investigation, and action. Ang laman po ng DM 221 ay ang proseso na sinusundan natin (The DepEd Memo clearly states the system of investigation. It states that it doesn’t only include divisions. The process includes monitoring, investigation, and action. We follow the process states in DM 221),” Luistro said.
“Madali lang mag-revoke ng memo. Ang problema, pag ni-revoke ko yang memo, wala tayong masusundan na proseso para sa hinaing na inyong inilahad. Baka po pwede ninyong i-review ulit yung memo kasi pag ni-revoke ko po yan, lalu akong walang panghahawakan (Revoking a memo is easy. The problem is, when a memo gets revoked, we have no procedure to follow to address complaints. Perhaps you can review the memo again because if I revoke it, I will have nothing to hold onto).”
He said that DepEd is one with the protesters in their concern for the safety of all persons in schools.
“Napagkasunduan namin na DepEd ang mangunguna at magiging tulay para maipakita ang kanilang mga dokumento at mailahad ang kanilang mga sinalaysay na karanasan. Dahil napapaloob rin sa EO138 ang mga nasabing hinanaing, amin itong idudulog sa Inter-agency committee sa pangunguna ng Council on the Welfare of Children (We at the Department of Education will lead and serve as the avenue to present their documents and their shared experiences, because EO138 also states that we should present said complaints to the inter-agency committee led by the Council on the Welfare of Children).”
Executive Order 138 establishes the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) as the chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict, with DepEd as one of its member agencies.
“We maintain that schools are zones of peace so there should be no armed personnel inside school grounds as it puts our students at risk,” Luistro said during the dialogue.
He also said that military operations and engagements were not allowed inside school premises, except for civil-military activities like Brigada Eskwela and Medical Missions. “Pati nga po pulis, hindi basta puwedeng pumasok sa eskwelahan. May programa dapat yan, walang baril,” he added.
“The concerns (on military presence in schools) brought to our attention are alarming but we still need to follow a process, a proper investigation on the allegations we heard in the dialogue,” said Luistro.
He also requested members of the affected schools to submit documentary evidence like photographs, videos, or narratives of the harassment done by armed personnel on the schools for a more “swift and comprehensive investigation.”
At present no documents have been submitted to DepEd by the Save Our Schools Network.
“It’s our mandate to ensure the safety and well-being of learners, teachers, and staff in our schools therefore we remind all armed persons, be they members of the military, police, or civilians, to uphold our guidelines in the interest of keeping our schools safe and peaceful,” said Luistro.