Earlier today elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Department of Social Work and Development raided the Lumad bakwit school on the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos (USC) in Metro Cebu. Authorities have claimed to be “rescuing” Lumad students, similar to claims made during previous raids and arrests of Lumad students, elders, and teachers.
The delegation students, elders and teachers came to the bakwit school in spring 2020, because of the forced closure of Lumad schools and the militarization of their communities. A joint letter by the Archdiocese of Cebu, the Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) and USC points out that the delegation was one of five such bakwit groups in Cebu, and had intended to return home in April 2020 after completing their studies.
When the quarantine restrictions came down, the delegation was sheltered at the bakwit school until now. As restrictions have lifted, plans were made for students to return home, and some have begun returning already. Departure was slow because of the need to organize COVID-19 testing, food, and travel fare.
This raid was unnecessary, as was the arrest of 21 students, 2 elders, and 2 teachers. Legal support have struggled to see their clients at the Police Regional Office-Central Visayas (PRO-7).
We in Canada should not see this as something like police rescuing Indigenous Peoples from a residential school. Lumad students and teachers go to bakwit schools because their own schools in their own communities are targeted by the police and military for harassment, occupation, and event bombings and strafings from helicopters. Whole classes leave with their teachers, along with community elders for supervision, to complete their schooling in relative safety. Even then, the bakwit schools have been raided by police or attacked and even burned by paramilitaries.
Joint Statement from Archdiocese of Cebu, SVD and USC: https://www.facebook.com/saveourschoolsnetwork/posts/5033758156696506
Statement from Moro and Lumad organization Sandugo: https://www.facebook.com/SandugoNatMin/posts/1377694385917923
Footage of the raid: https://www.facebook.com/saveourschoolsnetwork/videos/796174110975710