Monday, 15 June 2015

Illiteracy is one of the main problems among the marginalized, and DepEd itself showed data that nine out of ten indigenous peoples fall in this category. This problem, along with lack of basic services, is further compounded by military deployment, where even children in schools are not spared with the presence of soldiers.

Velez: Voices of Manobo children

LAST Saturday, the voice of 11 year old Reynan Dal-Anay wowed the audience and made all three judges turned around to appreciate his soulful young voice.
His story, however, that he is from the indigenous tribe of the Tigwahanon Manobos from San Fernando, Bukidnon moved everyone's heart. This was more poignant when he said, “Hindi dapat ikahiya kung ano ang mayroon tayo dahil iyon po ang makapag-aangat sa atin (We shouldn't hide who we are because this is the one way that could lift us up).”
And his song by the way was "Tagumpay ng Ating Lahi", which was sang with such soulfulness from an 11-year old.
While TV contests here often banked on the contestants' life stories – often about poverty or loss in the family – to generate views and votes, this story is moving for we hear a voice from the margins, of people we have come to barely see or understand. His story and his song also coincide with an ongoing struggle of Manobo children this time in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
Some 3,000 Talaingod Manobo children welcome this school year with their schools closed by the Department of Education. The Talaingod elders under the group Salugpongan remember that these schools were established since 2007 on their request to non-government organizations such as the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines to help them educate their children and uplift them from their state of illiteracy.
The schools called Salugpongan Ta 'Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) have expanded to 36 schools and a hundred teachers serving in far-flung communities not just in Talaingod but also in nearby towns where schools and other services such as health centers, electricity, and water are barely there.
The schools have been recognized by municipal tribal councils and accredited by the Department of Education Indigenous People's Education Office (Ipseo) as schools that will carry out DepEd curriculum to its elementary and high schools. The efforts of Salugpongan have also drawn support and donations from churches, international and local networks.
But all these services are facing a threat ironically from with regional education officials who cited renewal of permits as bases for “not opening the schools”. The sad thing is that in lieu of supporting these schools, officials are offering to these children the DepEd multigrade schools in other areas, and worse and strange, a school where soldiers would be teaching them.
Illiteracy is one of the main problems among the marginalized, and DepEd itself showed data that nine out of ten indigenous peoples fall in this category. This problem, along with lack of basic services, is further compounded by military deployment, where even children in schools are not spared with the presence of soldiers.
If these so-called officials were watching last Saturday, they could have asked themselves, are they making these decisions that could truly uplift these children from their state of poverty and neglect? Do they make decisions that could make us proud by showing that they care to educate and nurture the culture and values of being Filipinos? It seems we shake our heads over another folly such as this as they thrust orders without accountability of the consequence of pushing communities and these children from the margins to far, far margins.
As I recall Reynan saying we have to be proud of who we are and work our way up, I see efforts from the Talaingod Manobos, from the teachers and support groups who stand by them now in their camp outs in Davao City to appeal to officials to reopen their schools. I say I am proud that there are people who really care, who want these children to have a better future. And that I say is the real voice and spirit of being Filipinos.
By the way, these Talaingod Manobo children have a song and a video that showed their stories too, which you can check out at
Let us listen more and support these voices, those of the Talaingod Manobos and also of Reynan's in Bukidnon and all indigenous children hoping their voice and dreams be heard.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 13, 2015.

Friday, 12 June 2015

“Education is the tool for these children to combat discrimination against Indigenous People and to learn how to preserve their culture and tradition and their ancestral lands,”

IPs to DepEd: Don’t close schools we built


DAVAO CITY – “We have been waiting all our lives for the government to build a school in our communities, but now that we are able to build schools with our own perseverance, why do they want to close it?” said Datu Kailo Bantulan in a press conference Monday, June 1.
Bantulan is one of the datus (traditional leader) of the indigenous people’s organization Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanuon (Let us unite to defend our Ancestral Land).
Salugpungan sought the help of the Rural Missionaries in the Philippines in 1997 and theSalugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center Incorporated (STTILCI) was born.
The STTILCI has mushroomed with the growing demands of the Lumads; it now operates a total of 36 schools.Last week, the Department of Education Davao del Norte Division wrote a letter to its regional office recommending the closure of STTILCI, citing regulation issues and a letter of request from the Talaingod Municipal Tribal.
Administrators of the school said they have not been given due process.
Ronnie Garcia, basic education head of STTILCI, said they have annually acquired their permit to operate and certificate of recognition from the DepEd regional office from 2007 to 2013.
“In 2013, the DepEd released the Department Order 21 series of 2013, which meant that we have to directly submit to the National Office through the Indigenous People’s Education office,” said Garcia.
Datu Bantulan said Army troops told them to “burn the school”and to “kill the teachers”as they are communists.
“The schools became a target of the military because the schools became a symbol of the tribe’s resistance,” said Garcia.
Meanwhile, Jinky Malibato, 15, and now in the fifth grade, said Army men and paramilitary group Alamara blocked their teachers from entering their communities.
“They must allow our teachers to enter so that we could continue our schooling, so that I can pursue my dream of becoming a teacher,” she said.
Malibato’s school, operated by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc (Misfi) Academy, is in the Manobo community of Sitio Muling in Barangay Gupitan, Davao del Norte.
Like in Talaingod, Manobos of Kapalong created their organization Karadyawan and asked the help of NGOs to build schools, a grain drier, a water system and a corn mill.
Datu Mintroso Malibato, spokesperson of Karadyawan, said state forces said the structures were owned by the New People’s Army.
“They made this allegation against the product of our hardwork because they want a plantation to enter our area,”said Malibato.
Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network (SOS), slammed the closure order recommendation by the DepEd Davao del Norte Division.
He accused the military to be behind the closure order as the DepEd announced it will build schools to be manned by military parateachers.
Rius said the closure order “is the reverse of what the communities hope to happen.”
“Education is the tool for these children to combat discrimination against IPs and to learn how to preserve their culture and tradition and their ancestral lands,” Rius said.
“Education is one of the weapons of the lumads to defend themselves,” he said..
Reposted by (

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

"The iron grills that trapped the workers to death weren’t even a metaphor for the iron law of wages that kept workers’ pay to a minimum. They were the logical conclusion of capitalist accumulation, a process that cannot take place without taking away all value that comes from labor to the point of sucking the life out of labor itself."


Infamous Blaze*: On Kentex workers and the struggle of labor 

This is no way to die. That was my initial reaction upon reading the news on a factory fire that killed 72 people who made rubber slippers for a living. This is among the worst documented fires in contemporary times in terms of casualties. In 2001, fire gutted a budget hotel killing 75 people. Much earlier, 162 people died in a big fire that gutted the Ozone disco in 1996.

Witnesses and survivors report that victims were screaming for help behind iron grills that barred them from escaping through the windows. The iron grills were installed to protect the owners of Kentext from theft. Yet the 72 workers on account of a system that reduces labor to a mere function of time had nothing to protect themselves from the theft of surplus value that capitalists practice every working day.

The iron grills that trapped the workers to death weren’t even a metaphor for the iron law of wages that kept workers’ pay to a minimum. They were the logical conclusion of capitalist accumulation, a process that cannot take place without taking away all value that comes from labor to the point of sucking the life out of labor itself.

Sites of Production
Away from Manila at the moment, I can only read as much as I can on the infamous blaze that was the Kentex fire. I realize that a sounder reaction to this monumental tragedy is in order: working for Kentex was no way live!

Kentex is located in Valenzuela City, a factory hub in northern Manila. It was once part of the province of Bulacan until commercial development along with poor urban planning and politician’s glut for business tax and state allocation took over. Valenzuela, though, is no city that fell from grace. I remember passing by factories on a daily basis on my way to school back in the 80s. But for some reason, I don’t remember seeing scores of workers entering into or coming out of those factories. But with vagueness, I do recall one of them being a production site for tabo (mini dippers). The Valenzuela of my childhood felt dry and abandoned.

Despite its status as a chartered city for the state’s vision of economic development, Valenzuela is far from that district of acceptable greed called Makati in all its posh and promise. Valenzuela City’s condos do not bear the same kind of distinction that the small boxes in Bonifacio High Street do. Wasn’t the president’s former girlfriend subtly stigmatized for living in Valenzuela town? It was the ultimate signifier for the class gap between the ex-lovers.

In other words, Valenzuela City is no place of distinction. In a culture where bourgeios standards reign, one way to understand this stigma is precisely Valenzuela’s position in Manila’s political-economic map. Production sites where workers surrender their labor to the altar of capital are not glamorous spaces.

No way to live
But this spatial dynamics is not merely cultural. We are conditioned to pay no mind whatsoever to the laboring activities of people who produce our food, gadgets, shirts, shoes, bags, and slippers. Until something scandalously tragic happens.

Now we are reminded that the first victims of poor working conditions are the workers themselves. The first victims of unemployment are the unemployed rural and urban poor. Meanwhile, the “middling classes” are usually victimized by their own middling minds. The propertied class knows exactly what to do. As owners of the means of production, it is their role to accumalate profit through the exploitation of labor.

Ironically, sites of wealth production are looked down upon and deemed unsafe by people who cultivate an unfortunate aspirational mindset. There is nothing essential about work that makes workers dangerous. But the wage system that is underpinned by the logic of profit accumulation renders workers poor and dispossessed. So poor and dispossessed that certain classes of people can actually live their whole lives distinguishing themselves from this lot. Needless to say, such disposition is a product of miseducation.

From Marx, we learn that if things were really are what they seem, then we no longer have a need for science. Our impressions and fetishes would have sufficed to understand the world and the relations that make it up. Perhaps all we knew about the brand “Havana” before the Kentex fire is that it is a cheap knock-off of the much fetishized, and therefore overpriced Brazillian brand “Havaianas.”

Meanwhile, labor organizations and labor advocates have acquired eyes for what is normally erased from the scene of consumption. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development IOHSAD), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) immediately conducted a fact-finding mission on the Kentex fire and released the first comprehensive report on the tragedy.

The report tackles how the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in September 2014 declared that Kentex complies with general labor and occupational safety standards. Likewise, the factory was reportedly given a fire safety inspection certification by the Bureau of Fire Protection.

However, the fact-finding team “found glaring violations of standards pertaining to general labor conditions and to occupational health and safety. They argue “that most likely, these violations caused the tragic and massive loss of lives in the recent fire.”

It is difficult enought to imagine the tragic death of the 72 workers. But knowing about how they lived through the terrible working conditions at Kentex is enraging.

Kentex that is owned by Mr. Beato Ang and Mr. Ong King Guan is the kind of manufacturing company that only regularizes workers after 20-25 years of service. Those who have served the company for 10 years remain casuals. Regular or casual, workers receive a minimum wage and are not part of the company union that is only made up of 30 people.

There are about 104 casual workers illegally hired by a subcontracting agency which DOLE reporteldy aims to summon for patent violation of labor laws. Their social security, health and housing contributions were never remitted by their recruitment agency. Some workers are also hired on a piece-rate basis and are required to work for 12 hours.

All these workers had a shared experience of utmost discomfort in the workplace: “[They] also complain that they have to bear the heat inside the factory during work hours as there is no proper ventilation in the factory. They claim that they get tired of work not because of the heavy workload but because of the heat inside the factory premises.”

Anonymous Victims
Lamentably, officials say that there is no way to determine the accurate number of victims just yet—at least 20 more are missing— not even their complete names are available as records were lost. Records show, however, that long before fire razed Kentex factory, none of its workers mattered, not their welfare, not their lives, much less their names.
The Aquino regime like many governments which have embraced the interest of big business have actually withdrawn from its public obligations ranging from health care, education, housing, transporation, water, energy, and other public utilities. They have done so through the neoliberal consensus that was clinched since the 1970s. It is an anti-people consensus that the ruling class in imperialist states and their allies in their client states have forged to save global capitalism from its crisis.

DOLE’s Department Order 18-A (DO 18-A),which effectively legalizes contractualization, enables the illegal subconracting of labor. This is why government officials’ statements by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldo and Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr that pay lip service to labor rights are hypocritical, deceptive, and empty.
Until the Aquino regime lifts its contractualization policy on labor, workers who are already exploited by the wage system will remain vulnerable to all sorts abuses and labor rights violations.

Now more than ever, as Filipino workers are cheapened and brutalized by foreign investors and their local cohorts, and a government that makes new laws against labor so that politicians’ stakes in business is so high they can afford to imagine workers’ lives lesser than their own, the question remains: Socialism or death?

*borrowed from a line in the poem “Shirt” by Robert Pinsky in the collection The Want Bone (1990): “The infamous blaze/ At the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in nineteen-eleven.” This allusion is to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in Manhattan, a sweatshop where, in 1911, a fire broke out and killed more than one hundred immigrant workers.” (

Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philppine Anti-Imperialist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.

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