NO TO NPA-LINKED SCHOOLS. The Department of Education here remains confident that the operations of a school linked with the New People's Army (NPA) will no longer resume. DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said on Wednesday that their strong partnership with the military maintains the areas of Davao Region cleared from NPA-linked Salugpungan Schools. PNA File photo

DAVAO CITY – With the help of the military, the Department of Education in Davao Region (DepEd-11) is confident that the schools under the Salugpongan Ta'Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) will not be able to resume operations.

“Before, we would quarrel with the military on who to blame for the existence of these schools. However, through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict, we were able to work together to close down these New People’s Army-affiliated schools that also became a breeding ground for child warriors,” DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said in a press briefing Wednesday.

The military and Salugpongan's former students have long accused the tribal school system of being a training and recruitment ground for the New People's Army (NPA).

In August 2019, DepEd-11 ordered the closure of 55 STTICLCI schools in Davao Region. The decision was grounded on the findings of various regulatory violations, deficiencies, and compliance issues on the part of the school management, apart from its alleged NPA links.

Atillo noted that STTICLCI's closure came “after careful consideration, analysis, and thorough evaluation of the testimonies of the resource persons, key informant and documents submitted.”

Before the closure Salugpongan schools, Atillo said DepEd-11 managed to place its former students in government-accredited schools.

“Not all children enrolled in the Salugpongan schools hailed from Davao Region. Some were from Luzon; they were taken there and brought here so the kids were confined in the schools because they had nowhere else to go,” Atillo said.

At least 2,200 public schools and 498 private schools have signified readiness for the full implementation of face-to-face classes in November 2022, he said.

Meanwhile, Capt. Mark Anthony Tito, the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson, said the military has "done extensive efforts" to clear the areas of Davao Region and its other areas of responsibility of rebel-linked schools.

“With the closure of Salugpongan schools, we are coordinating with the local government units together with DepEd-11 to create learning institutions near Indigenous People communities that are the usual victims of the NPAs,” Tito said.

This year, the 10ID has declared four provinces and one city in Davao Region as free from the communist insurgency.

To date, only Davao Oriental province has remnants of the weakened NPA Guerrilla Front 18 operating in its peripheries before the entire region could be declared insurgency free.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)