PH military still using schools as camps – study

ABS-CBN News, November 21, 2012

By Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is among conflict-ridden countries where the military continues to use schools as camps, New York-based Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack said.

In a study entitled, “Lessons In War: Military Use of Schools and Other Education Institutions during Conflict”, the coalition said the Philippines is one of 24 countries where military use of schools and institutions were observed from January 2005 until October 2012.

Aside from being used as camps, the coalition said schools are also being converted into barracks, logistics bases, operational headquarters, weapons and ammunition caches, detention and interrogation centers, firing and observation positions, and recruitment grounds.

Nonetheless, it noted that the Philippines has set up policies in preventing such.

The coalition is urging the said countries to adopt measures that will restrict the military from using education institutions for their purposes, saying the practice deprives the youth of their right to education and puts them in life-threatening situations.

It added that education is one of the potent ingredients in achieving lasting peace in a conflict-torn country.

“When countries go to war, education facilities usually end up on the battlefield,” said Diya Nijhowne, director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

“Governments need to send a clear message that even during times of armed conflict, access to a safe education should be a priority, and armed forces need to respect students’ right to education.”

The group said there are instances where the military only occupy a portion of a school. In such cases, students become exposed to attacks or abuse by the military and its opponents.

“The moment troops establish a base inside a school, they can turn it into a target for attack,” Nijhowne said. “When soldiers use schools and universities they are often putting their own convenience over the safety and education of students.”

The study also cited high dropout rates, reduced enrollment, lower rates of transition to higher education levels, overcrowding, and loss of instructional hours as the usual consequences of military use of schools.

The Philippines has been dealing with the Communist Party of the Philippines, a group waging one of Asia’s longest-running Maoist insurgencies.

The country is also facing threats from groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has recently reached a peace framework with the government.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is an alliance of United Nations agencies and organizations from the fields of education in emergencies, higher education, international human rights, and international humanitarian law, dedicated to addressing the problem of attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities during armed conflict.

The 23 other countries monitored were: Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, India, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territory, Libya, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Uganda, and Yemen.