Filipino colleagues and students receive a wave of education union solidarity

published 20 August 2017 updated 25 August 2017

Teacher unions globally have condemned continuing attacks against Lumad schools, teachers, students and communities in the Philippines, a show of solidarity which comes after a call to action from Education International.

On 26 July, Education International (EI) called on its affiliates globally to condemn the continuous harassment of and attacks against students, teachers and human rights activists of the Lumad indigenous communities on the Mindanao island in the Philippines. EI was alerted to these military and para-military attacks by its Filipino affiliate, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).

Urgent action appeal

EI urged all its member organisations to take immediate action by:

·         Sending a protest letter to President Rodrigo Duterte and relevant authorities in the Philippines (see model letter)

·         Contacting their individual Governments and diplomatic representation of the Philippines in their countries

·         Requesting dialogue on these issues with the Filipino authorities

·         Releasing public statements condemning the attacks against the Lumad education communities in Mindanao

·         Highlighting this situation on their social media

Widespread support

After EI issued this call, the National Union of Teachers (UK), the Union of Education Norway, and the Australian Education Union immediately issued protest letters and public condemnation of the attacks.

Aside from teachers’ unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), through ACT, publicly condemned and sent an appeal letter to President Duterte. It called for the immediate release of Amelia Pond, a researcher from a Lumad centre currently held on false charges; the end of threats, harassment and intimidation of teachers from Lumad schools; the disbandment of all paramilitary groups operating under the state armed forces; and the withdrawal of the Philippine counter-insurgency programme that resulted in numerous cases of human rights violations; and it called on the Philippines’ government to adhere to and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major human rights instruments.

“In their statements, Union of Education Norway (UEN), Australian Education Union (AEU) and National Union of Teachers (NUT-London) promised to continuously monitor the situation and mobilise further should the government continue the persecution of the indigenous communities,” said ACT General Secretary and EI Executive Board member Raymond Basilio. “The unions also labelled attacks against the Lumad schools as a violation to the right to education of thousands of Lumad children.”

The ACT National President, Benjamin Valbuena, also noted that the concerns of CUPE.

ACT: Call for presidential action

The ACT has again urged President Duterte to immediately retract his statement ordering the bombing of the Lumad schools and to prosecute the perpetrators of the attacks against the Lumad schools, teachers, students and human rights advocates.

Valbuena added that his trade union is calling on the Filipino President to also order the immediate arrest of the military agents and paramilitary forces involved in the murder of Emerito Samarca, Emelito Rotimas, Leonila Tapsadan and Ramon Pesadilla and to secure the unconditional release of Lumad teacher Amelia Pond.

He said that teachers from the Philippines and abroad will continue to launch mass actions and mobilisations until the right to education and to a peaceful community of the Lumad people are upheld by the government.