MANILA, Philippines – Amid criticisms, including one that called him “the lowest of the low,” and “mad man with bombs,” President Rodrigo Duterte clarified on Thursday that while he had warned that he would blast “rebel” schools of indigenous communities in Mindanao, he did not intend to kill lumad students.
“Hindi ko sinabing bobombahin ko ‘yon habang may mga bata, kundi kung wala nang bata. Kaya nga pinapaalis ko na sila doon [I didn’t say I would bomb the schools while the children are there but when they’re no longer there. That’s why I’m telling them to leave the schools],” Duterte told media after attending the wake of the six policemen slain by communist rebels in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
The President claimed the schools were not registered with the Department of Education (DepEd) and were just being used to “poison the minds” of children, “who grow up hating the government.”
“Sisirain ko kasi ginagamit n’yo (para) sirain (ang) mental health of children [I will destroy these schools because these are being used to destroy the mental health of children],” said Duterte.
Last Tuesday, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) called Duterte “the lowest of the low” for threatening to bomb lumad schools.
“You are a madman with bombs. You are a bully. An arrogant street thug intoxicated with power. But you only pick on the weak, the small, and the oppressed,” the CPP information bureau said.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay also lambasted Duterte for his remarks, saying in a statement that, “Bullying lumad kids and communities is one thing — his state forces get away with it every time — but bombing their schools and communities is a war crime, one of the gravest violations under international humanitarian law.”
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said in a separate statement that “openly threatening to bomb lumad schools is as monstrous as it can get.”
“First you distorted human rights, now you taunt international humanitarian law. Stop the madness already,” added Olalia.
Meanwhile, the non-government Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc. (ALCADEV) that operates lumad schools in Mindanao said it was not among those that Duterte claimed did not have permit from the DepEd.
“You are claiming that our Lumad schools are illegally operating so you can justify the attacks on our schools and threaten us to bomb our communities,” said ALCADEV in a Facebook post.
“We suggest you check first with your agencies we’ve coordinated with since time immemorial,” said ALCADEV, attaching with its FB post certificates from the DepEd.