KITAOTAO, Bukidnon – Mayor Lorenzo Gawilan Jr. is pushing for the filing of administrative charges against the barangay official who closed down the school and ordered the teachers and students to leave the village. A move that has sent a flicker of hope among the administrators of the embattled, yet award-winning, lumad school in Barangay White Culaman, in this town.
White Culaman village chair Felipe Cabugnason will face administrative charges of abuse of authority for his action on October 23 of closing down the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School ran by MISFI Academy in defiance of the order of the Department of Education Region 11. Cabugnason has earlier threatened to close the MISFI school on allegations that it is ran by rebels.
Mayor Gawilan Jr. issued this call in a memorandum on Monday with the approval of the Kitaotao Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) who heard the teachers, administrators and students of the school who were invited to the council to air their accounts on the incident.
The two teachers and students recounted on October 23 noon that Cabugnason brought a group of 100 people including barangay tanods (police), plain-clothes soldiers and residents who tore down the school fence.
The children, frightened and in tears, said the barangay chair separated non-White Culaman students from the group and accused some students that their parents were New People’s Army rebels. Afterwards, Cabugnason ordered them to pack their belongings, padlocked the school and urged teachers and 20 students to leave White Culaman.
The mayor also issued another memorandum to Cabugnason ordering him to fix the destroyed school fence, and order members of the 8th Infantry Battalion to vacate the school premises so that the 55 MISFI students in Grades 7 and 8 can immediately resume their classes.
The MISFI Academy and Save Our Schools Network is grateful to the Kitaotao LGU for their fast action and support to the school. SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said, “We commend the local officials of Kitaotao for seeing the malicious actions of Cabugnason that violates the law which guarantees protection of children and schools from attacks especially from armed persons or groups like the military.”
“With these resolutions, we hope that the community, which we believe has been coerced or threatened by Cabugnason and the 8th IB, would have their peace restored, and the children can resume their classes without fear of their so-called captain and soldiers harassing them,” Valle added.
The students and teachers have sought refuge in the parish of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Arakan, North Cotabato under the care of Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, head of the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Foundation.
The school gives free schooling and lodging for the lumad and farmer children with allowances.
Meanwhile, the MISFI administrators will be filing criminal charges against Cabugnason for grave threats and violation of the law on Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination (RA 7610) which prohibits the use of schools and other public infrastructure for military structure. (SOS)