DAVAO CITY — The Department of Education-Region 11 (DepEd-11) said the show cause order on Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (Salugpungan) has been extended for another five days.

In a text message Monday afternoon, DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said the extension, from July 17 to July 22, was granted on the request of Maria Eugenia Nolasco, Salugpungan executive director.

Atillo said the non-extendible extension granted by DepEd-11 Director Evelyn Fetalvero meant that Nolasco has enough time to answer the allegation made by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon about Salungpungan’s supposed ties with the communist rebel movement.

Esperon, who also chairs the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, alleged that the Salugpungan tribal school system promotes the New People’s Army’s (NPA) communist ideology that espouses the violent overthrow of the government; trains its students to hold mass actions against the government; and uses curriculums not in accordance with the DepEd guidelines.

DepEd issued the show cause order on July 12, when it suspended its 55 schools in Davao Region following Esperon’s allegations.

According to Atillo, Esperon’s allegations are backed by the testimonies of a former teacher of a Salugpungan school who has since left the organization.

“The basis of Secretary Esperon is the affidavit executed by Melvin Loyod who is a former student of a certain Salugpungan school and eventually became a volunteer teacher in a Salugpungan school in Sitio Pongpong, Barangay Sto. Niño Talaingod Davao del Norte,” Atillo said.

In his affidavit executed on Dec. 6, 2018, Loyod claimed that Salugpungan learners were taught with rebellion tactics against the government. The military also claimed that the schools are training grounds for NPA recruitment, where students are trained in guerilla warfare.

Loyod claimed that the students are taught NPA literature, made to sing songs praising the communist rebellion, and made to act in plays depicting alleged military abuses on the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

Antonio Ortiz, DepEd-11 legal counsel, said Monday the agency will be compelled to decide on the issue if Salugpungan cannot submit their answer on time.

“If they cannot answer after the given time or cannot submit their explanation, DepEd will decide the matter on the basis of available evidence,” Ortiz stressed.

Ortiz said that since the case against Salugpungan is administrative in nature, the DepEd-11 director “is given by law a wide discretion to decide.”

Atillo said Salugpungan can always appeal any decision by DepEd-11 to Education Secretary Leonor Briones. (PNA)

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