Displaced tribal children from the southern Philippines attend a "refugee school" in Manila in time for the opening of classes on Aug. 7. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
More than 100 tribal children displaced by military operations in hinterland communities in the southern Philippines are holding classes in a "refugee school" inside a university campus in Manila.
Classes will be held in the temporary school until the government retracts a threat by President Rodrigo Duterte to bomb tribal schools he claims harbor communist rebels.
About 110 tribal children traveled to Manila from Mindanao last month to protest against the president's pronouncement.
They said even before Duterte's threat tribal schools have always been the target of military harassment.
The "refugee school" inside the University of the Philippines campus in Manila will serve as an alternative venue for the displaced children.
The idea of holding alternative classes for displaced tribal children started in evacuation camps in Mindanao in 2015.
During a visit on Aug. 5, Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, apologized to the children for "lapses or lack of attention" the human rights body committed.
"We will try our best to assist you," Gascon told the children.
Rius Valle, spokesman of the support group Save Our Schools Network, said 27 tribal schools have been "forcibly closed" by the military in Mindanao affecting at least a thousand tribal children.
Valle said Duterte's threats have aggravated "fear and distrust" among tribal communities regarding the government.
Luisito Penaloza, head teacher of the Assumption Interfaith Academy Foundation in Davao City, said the president's pronouncement "terrorized our students."
He said even schools run by the Catholic Church have become targets of threats.