30 September 2009                                                                 

For Reference:    
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

Gabriela  Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan expressed concern over the alarming increase in the number of children not able to go to school and who cannot read or write as a result of the continued armed conflict in Mindanao. 

“Education is a basic right. The government is depriving children of Mindanao this right by not just allowing but ordering continued military existence and operations in the island in pursuit of its so-called enemies,” Ilagan said. 

In a study by E-Net Philippines, a Kidapawan City-based network of organizations aiming to reform education in the Philippines, it was found that four out of ten children and youth in SOCCSKSARGEN (Region 12) are missing school due to the armed conflict in Mindanao. This number is three times higher than the 14% national average.

In North Cotabato and Maguindanao, almost 5,000 children were forced to stop schooling when fighting broke out between the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in August last year.
According to the E-Net report, some of these children and youth, aged three to 25 cannot read and write, raising the number of illiterate Filipinos to 15 million or 27% higher than in 2003. The Philippines ranks 53rd out of 154 countries in the 2008 United Nations Development Programme Report on literacy with a score of 92.6. 

Ilagan, a former professor of the Ateneo de Davao University, said that we should expect an increase in the number of out-of-school and illiterate children and youth, as there is no sign that the government intends to stop the war soon.

“The greatest impact of war has always been on children. Aside from denying them the right to education, the existence of the military in civilian areas also puts their health, their future, and even their lives at risk,” Ilagan said.    

“The only solution to these problems is the immediate pullout of soldiers and military bases. We have long been calling for this but Mrs. Arroyo has continuously failed to listen to our call,” Ilagan said.