No closure, just suspension order vs. 55 Salugpungan schools

MANILA Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Thursday stressed that the Department of Education (DepEd) in Southern Mindanao did not order the closure of 55 Salugpungan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon (Salugpungan) tribal schools serving the indigenous peoples in the region.

There was no closure order, just a suspension order. Aside from the difference in spelling, there's a difference in meaning between the two, Briones said in a press briefing at the DepEd headquarters in Pasig.

In July, DepEd Southern Mindanao ordered the suspension of the schools due to violation of Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 and DepEd Order 21 series of 2014 or the Guidelines on the Recognition of Private Learning Institutions Serving Indigenous Peoples Learners.

Briones explained that the department conducted an appropriate investigation after receiving reports from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

This is a very serious charge of the National Security Adviser. These are backed with affidavits of former students and teachers, resolution of tribal chiefs, resolution of the peace and order council of Davao City and their own observations as they're able to gather data. We are accountable and we are vulnerable if we don't act on it, she said.

Meanwhile, DepEd Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Nepomuceno Malaluan said the suspension order is not the final decision regarding the matter as there is a show-cause order on Salugpungan executive director Maria Eugenia Nolasco to provide a written explanation on the allegations of Esperon.

They have been asked to show cause why their recognition must not be revoked permanently and there will be weighing of all the facts after they have submitted requirements in their compliance to the show cause order, he added.

On Monday, DepEd Southern Mindanao Director Evelyn Fetalvero granted Nolasco's request for extension to answer the allegations of Esperon.

Fetalvero stressed that the non-extendable extension, from July 17 to July 22, is already enough time for Nolasco to comply with the show cause order.

Salugpungan schools' history

In an earlier interview, Malaluan told Philippine News Agency (PNA), by the end of school year 2018-2019, the Salugpungan schools offer kindergarten, elementary and secondary education in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

"I'm not sure if there are schools in Davao del Sur and other municipalities and provinces. Of the 55, seven are Kindergarten schools, 38 schools catering Kindergarten to Grade 6 students, and 10 are Junior High Schools," he added.

Situated in remote sitios, these schools started as literacy and numeracy learning centers under the leadership of some tribal leaders and peoples' organizations.

"Based on the account of our local officials, they started in 2006 without permit and recognition from the DepEd. Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center stands for the unity of the people in defense of the ancestral domain," Malaluan said, adding they later evolved to basic education schools and had Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration certificate in 2011.

The DepEd recognition of the Salugpongan Community Learning Centers started upon the issuance of DepEd Order series 21 of 2014 or the Guidelines on the Recognition of Private Learning Institutions Serving Indigenous Peoples Learners.

"This was issued during the time of Bro. Armin Luistro and this granted the DepEd regional office the authority to grant operation of an applicant learning institution. It could be a permit to operate or a recognition, and you must understand that permit to operate is granted to applicants still completing their requirements to acquire full recognition by the DepEd," Malaluan said.

He added that the DO's transitory provision allowed the processing of the learning centers' applications for permit at the Indigenous Peoples Education Office (IPsEO) inside DepEd headquarters.

"That is for a period of two years starting from the issuance of the DO. That means from April 2014 up to April 2016, the IPsEO was given the role of processing the applications. That's why the first batch of applications were processed in the central office and they [the learning centers] were able to get permits which are renewable" he said.

Monitoring, renewal of permit to operate

Until the end of school year 2018-2019, Malaluan said there are only three schools that "purely Salugpongan schools, which are recognized by the DepEd and the remaining 52 have temporary permits, which are renewable on a yearly basis".

"I say 'purely' because there are other schools which are named not only Salugpongan like the Salugpongan MISFI, among others," he said.

For the school year 2019 to 2020, Malaluan said there will be pending renewals of temporary permits for the concerned Salugpongan schools.

"(And) they are not being actioned upon, precisely because of the evaluation process in connection to the issue about these schools," he said.

The following are some of the requirements which the Salugpongan schools must meet to secure DepEd recognition and/or renewed permit to operate:

-Basic school profile,

-proposed basic education school program,

-curriculum or course offerings,

-number of prospective learners,

-teachers' profiles,

-student manual copy,

-school calendar copy,

-proof of ownership of school site,

-an agreement between the Indigenous People (IP) community and the learning institution on the use of property situated in the ancestral domain,

-certification from an IP cultural community,

-SEC certificates,

-Department of Labor and Employment certificates, and

-teachers and supervisors must have passed the Licensure Exam for Teachers, must have appreciation and understanding of the local culture, knowledgeable of the mother tongue.

"We are already in the phase that we are evaluating the reports submitted to us in connection with the (Salugpungan) schools issue. So question, suggestions on spot-checking would be moot and we can't just get there without giving them notice because of the schools' exact location, very remote, and security issues," Malaluan said.

"And of course, they won't really show their real curriculum especially that they're aware that such curriculum is prohibited by the law," he said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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