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Duterte: Only empty tribal schools would be bombed

By: AP and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

President Duterte said his threat to launch airstrikes against tribal schools because they allegedly teach subversion would apply only when the buildings are empty, a clarification that still raised concern he was advocating a war crime.

Duterte said in a news conference late Thursday in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental while visiting the wake of six policemen slain in an encounter with the New People’s Army that the bombings will be done at night and maintained that the schools were teaching students to become subversives and were operating without government permits.

“I didn’t say that I’ll bomb those if there are people, so I asked them to go away from there, meaning I’ll destroy those because you are using a school without a license,” Duterte said. “I didn’t say I’ll kill the children. Far from it actually. I’ll free the children from perdition because they’ll learn to be like you.”

“I have every reason to stop it because you are producing another generation of haters,” he said. “Don’t fool me. You teach nothing there but socialism and killings.”

Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines said yesterday that Duterte will not harm Lumad children as the government goes after the communist rebels in Mindanao.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said Duterte is not referring to all Lumad schools but only those which do not have permits from the Department of Education and refuse to comply with the agency’s requirements on curriculum.

“It is likewise clear that the President does not intend to bomb Lumad children,” Banaag said. “On the contrary, he said that they should get out of the schools as he was referring to structures and not to children,” she added.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Duterte was sending a strong position against those who don’t comply with government requirements.

“Kinakailangan niyo pong maintindihan ang pananalita ng ating mahal na Pangulo. Binanggit niya po iyon pero hindi naman po talagang gagawin na bobombahin ang eskwelahan dahil may mga bata po diyan,” Padilla said.

“It was just a matter of strongly communicating a strong position, in behalf of government, to warn these illegal educational centers which are not complying with government regulation,” he added.