DAVAO CITY — The local chief of a village in Kitaotao town Bukidnon gives a boarding high-school two days time to close their school.
Teacher Evelyn Cabangal of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy said she received Memorandum Order No. 04 Series of 2015 dated October 1.
The memorandum was addressed to Misfi Academy’s executive director, Percinita J. Sanchez and signed by Felipe S. Cabugnason, barangay chairman of Barangay White Culaman.
The memorandum reads that Sanchez is being informed that the barangay council is ordering the office of Misfi to close the school “within two days after you receive this memorandum.”
“Failure to comply with the said memorandum order within the timeframe given, the barangay council together with the people in our barangay will go where the school is located and we will automatically close the school,” said Cabugnason.
The school is located in Sitio Dao, White Culaman and currently hosts 42 Grade 7 and Grade 8 students.
The memorandum adds that the “barangay council decides to close the school because of lack of documents such as permit to operate.”
“The school is also a threat to the safety of the people living in our barangay,” said the barangay memorandum.
It said the school is “proven” to have links with the New People’s Army.
“The New People’s Army is the one who surveyed the area, led by certain NPA members Ka Makoy, Ka Ibyang and Etok who allegedly facilitated the lumbers sold for the construction of the school. The lumbers sold (were) not paid, according to the owners of the lumber,” said Cabugnason.
The memorandum was also signed by seven barangay councilors and an indigenous people mandatory representative (IPMR).
Cabangal said she was one of the pioneer teachers in the school and she has not met any of the NPA members mentioned in the memorandum.
“When I came here, this is already a school and I started teaching and haven’t seen those people,” she said. The school was established in June last year.
Cabangal said she teaches Math, Science and Values Educations. She said the school is originally housing 55 students, but after previous military operations, which happened near their school, some students left. Now they only have 42 students.
She said the students came as far as Arakan Valley in North Cotabato.
Cabangal said during the recently held Mercy Mission in Kitaotao last September 16-18 by cause-oriented groups, the school administration has already talked with the barangay officials that their concern should be sent to the office of Misfi in Indangan, Davao City.
Cabangal said she received the letter while they were preparing lunch at around 11:35 am. She said after receiving the memorandum she sent a mobile text to Cabugnason and reminded him to send the letter to Davao City.
However, Cabangal said the village chief replied to her “kamo nay tawag sa inyong staff sa Davao kay naa man moy kontak nila basta duha ra ka adlaw ang akong tagal (call your staff in Davao because you have contact with them, just remember I only gave two days as deadline).”
Milagros Maglungsod-Tan, education coordinator of Misfi Academy,said they have not yet received the memorandum in their office. She said that whatever happens, they will not close the school.
“The Board of the Directors and the administrators decided that we will not close the school,” she said.
She said they will also try to reach out to the local government unit in Kitaotao to get their views on the matter.
She said the school was built upon the request of the local farmers group Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa White Culaman (United Farmers of White Culaman).
“This is an effort and initiative of the local farmers’ organization who wished to have a secondary school near them to cater farmers and indigenous peoples,” she said.
She also said they do not know about the allegations pertaining to the unpaid lumber facilitated by alleged NPA members.
“We went through a process, we attended barangay sessions and paid courtesy to the Barangay captain who previously attended and made speeches during school activities,” said Maglungsod-Tan.
“We went through a lot of processes, even with the office of Municipal Mayor Lorenzo Gawilan,” she added.
Maglungsod-Tan also said that they have applied for the permit to operate since June last year.
“Since June last year, we have been submitting reports on the school’s enrollees to DepEd (Department of Education) in Malaybalay, so we only lack the formal permit to operate but the DepEd is aware of the school’s existence,” she added.
She said the DepEd Division of Malaybalay has inspected the school “twice”.
“We know our school is harassed because we lack the permit from DepEd, so we have been trying our best to follow it up with DepEd,” she said.
However, she said they feel sad that the village chief who was previously “very supportive” of the school is now ordering its closure.
“When the Army started coming in the community in August this year, he changed his views about the school,” she said.
“Kapitan (Cabugnason) knows about the school and our activities because he has always been present during school activities,” she added.
She said they were able to talk to Cabugnason during the recent mercy mission to remind him that he was very supportive of the school before, but Cabugnason told her “nag-alsa na mi mam, ang tibuok barangay mag-alsa na mi (we are rising up now, the whole barangay will rise up).”
“He told us ‘take your school off to somewhere else’,” she said.
“With our without the permit, they do not like the school to remain in the community,” said Maglungsod-Tan.
Meanwhile, Cabangal said she hopes Cabugnason will have compassion and change his mind over the order to close their school.
“Asa na man ang katungod sa mga kabatan-onang kabus nga ma-edukar kung ingon ani ang iyang panglantaw nga ipasirado ang among eskwelahan. Kay kani among mga estudyante diri mga kabus man intawon ni nga dili maka-afford og eskwela bisan sa public, kay walay ikabayad (What will happen to the right of the children to get education if he thinks this way and orders to close the school. Our students here came from poor families who can’t even afford to go to public school because they don’t have money),” said Cabangal.