President Rodrigo Duterte has clarified that he had no plans of killing lumad (indigenous people) children when he ordered the bombing of indigenous schools operating without a permit from the Department of Education (DepEd).
In a media interview in Negros Oriental on Thursday, Duterte said he merely warned to burn lumad schools that foment rebellion against the government.
“Wala akong sinabi na bombahan ko ‘yang may tao kaya sinabi ko umalis kayo diyan. Ibig sabihin, sisirain ko ‘yan [I did not say that I’ll bomb that while there are people inside. That’s why I said ‘Leave, I will destroy that] because you are using a school without a license from the Department of Education.’ Dito sa Pilipinas may batas. Bago ka makabukas ng eskwelahan [Here in the Philippines, there’s a law. Before you open a school], you have to have the necessary clearances and everything from government. You are using a building there,” Duterte told reporters.
“Hindi ko sinabi patayin ko ‘yung mga bata [I did not say I’ll kill the children]. Far from it actually. Librehin ko ang bata sa perdition ninyo because they will learn to be pareho sa inyo [I will free the children from perdition because they will learn that from you],” he said.
On Thursday, the President said he issued the warning because the lumad schools are being used to exploit the children, causing them to “hate government and eventually go to war.”
“[I will destroy that because you are using the school] to destroy the mental attitude, the mental health of the children. They grow up there hating government and going to war. You are perpetuating the violence in this country and I have to stop it,” Duterte added.
“I have every reason to stop it because you are producing another generation of haters. [Do not fool me. You’re just teaching socialism and killings],” he said.
On Friday, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag said the President was merely condemning those who are urging the lumad children to join the insurgency against the government.
“It is clear from the President’s remarks that he is not referring to all lumad schools but to those that don’t have permits from the Department of Education and refuse to comply with DepEd requirements on curriculum,” Banaag said in a news conference.
“It is the illegal lumad schools thatdrew the President’s adverse reaction,”she added.
Armed Forces spokesman Restituto Padilla Jr. said Duterte was only “communicating a strong position” against illegal educational centers who are not complying with government regulations.
“Now, it is not bad to teach communism per se because we, in college, learned about it. We read books about Marxism, Leninism, socialism and the like. And it’s part of liberal education. So teaching it… But, if you target very young minds, vulnerable minds, and try to sway them to a certain kind of thinking, that is like brainwashing,” he noted.
“What is right? Fear of God, love of country, love of family, the appreciation of correct values that you want your citizens to have. And these schools are not teaching that. This is an issue that has been going on since before the elections and you know that, I’m sure of it. It was an issue that was escalated and it was exaggerated by many cause-oriented groups whose minds and line of thinking, we cannot fathom because it’s so evil. Why do you want to brainwash a child? Because you want them to perpetuate what you want them to do. It is not good,” Padilla said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE