MANILA – Ranking security officials of the country are not amenable to proposals that would broker an accord with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) prohibiting police and military units from conducting operations in IP schools.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said allowing such an accord to come into existence would give the impression that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are targeting IP schools.
"What? If the PNP and the AFP do that, they are admitting that they are targeting IP schools. They are not. I don’t think they would do it," he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency Thursday night.
In the first place, Lorenzana said IPs do not have schools, and so-called educational facilities catering to them are operated by communist fronts that were later ordered closed.
"What the AFP and the DepEd (Department of Education) did were to close schools run by communist fronts. These schools were the Salugpungan, Alcadev (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development), and others they set up in remote areas. They do not follow the DepEd curricula and their teachers were not accredited by the DepEd. They use these schools to recruit kids to join the NPA (New People's Army)," he added.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año echoed the same sentiment.
"I'm not in favor of that. The AFP and the PNP have to carry out their mandates and duties in any part of the country and where the situation warrants," he said in a separate message to PNA.
Noting that many IPs end up being victims of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA's atrocities, illegal miners, and loggers operations, Año said there is a need for immediate security response to protect them from these threats.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
"Hence, spontaneous and immediate actions of the AFP and PNP should be conducted unhampered in any area to include IP ancestral domain areas in order to respond timely and save lives as well as ensure peace and order in troubled areas," he added.
House Deputy Speaker Michael Romero earlier made the proposal during the House Committee on Human Rights hearing on Wednesday on the rescue operations conducted by government security troops for IP children who were held against their will at the University of San Carlos campus in Cebu City last February.
He said the proposed accord could be similar to the 1989 University of the Philippines (UP)-DND agreement that prevented state forces from entering any of its campuses.
“I propose that a similar accord be entered into by the NCIP, PNP, DND to ensure that no indigenous people learning institution will suffer this same event as what happened on February 15, 2021,” Romero said.
He said the AFP and PNP have to secure prior notification should they have operations within the premises of the IP learning institution. (with Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)