Arian Jane Ramos, known as Ka Marikit, former secretary of the Guerrilla Front 55 under the New People's Army's Southern Mindanao Regional Command. (Screenshot)

DAVAO CITY – The Indigenous Peoples (IP) themselves decided to put an end to tribal schools linked to communist rebels, not former mayor and now Vice President Sara Z. Duterte.

This was the assertion of Arian Jane Ramos, former secretary of Guerrilla Front 55 of the New People's Army (NPA) based in Southern Mindanao, following the brickbats hurled at the Vice President by certain quarters believed to be allied with communist rebels.

In particular, Ramos, known as Ka Marikit when she was in the NPA, was reacting to allegations that the closure of the Salugpongan schools in Davao and the rest of the region was the handiwork of Duterte.

“The IPs became decisive for the Salugpongan closure and other 'lumad' schools because they knew the real goal of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA,” Ramos said Monday.

She said the Salugpongan tribal schools were “supposed to shape the future of the children and the development of the tribe, “but they  turned out the other way.”

In October 2019,  the Department of Education in Region 11 (DepEd-11) ordered the closure of the controversial Salugpungan Ta'Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI), the school system that managed the Salugpongan schools, for lack of permits and alleged links with the NPA.

Jenelieto Atillo, DepEd-11 spokesperson, made it clear that the decision did not rest solely on STTICLCI's alleged links with the New People's Army (NPA) but also based on the findings that showed various regulatory violations, deficiencies and compliance issues on the part of the school management.

DepEd's probe on STTICLCI came after then National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon alleged that STTICLCI-run schools were being used as training and recruitment centers for the NPA.

Esperon's allegations were based on the testimonies of former STTICLCI students and teachers.

Various tribal councils in Mindanao also issued a resolution demanding the closure of Salugpongan schools, accusing them of turning their children into rebels.

For Ramos, Duterte's decision to support the DepEd's findings and the eventual closure of Salugpongan schools was a reflection of her “motherly love” for Davao City, saying the former mayor was just “looking out for what's best for the majority.”

“They use the tribe to increase the number of activists and take up arms to resist the government, and in the future, the main CPP-NPA cadres will benefit from it,” Ramos said in an interview.

In 2003, she narrated that the CPP guided the Salugpongan organization led by Datu Guibang in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, to construct a literacy-numeracy school for the Manobo children with teacher-volunteers from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

Four years later, she said STTICLCI was born under the direction of the CPP-NPA, offering “free and accessible education for all Lumad children” enrolled in 55  tribal schools throughout Mindanao.

“Through this process, it (Salugpongan) produced activists and NPA Lumad fighters across Davao Region,” Ramos said.

She also asked Duterte, who is also the Department of Education's current secretary, to help the IP children attain their dreams through good education.

“Their dreams of becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher, soldier, and so forth will serve the interests of their tribe and the country,” Ramos added. (PNA)