At a glance:
Live-streamed coverage gave no background on the conflict in Mindanao that led to the ‘Bakwit School’ in Cebu. Accusations against the program and the government's motive in shuttering Lumad schools were left out, drawing confusion instead of light from the news report.

CEBU media coverage of the Feb. 15, 2021 police-assisted rescue operation of 19 minors from Mindanao generated strong criticism from Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), which was unusual as quality of local news coverage rarely gets the attention of Manila-based critics.

Negative comments on the live-streamed reports from local news outfits appear to have been fueled by different, if not antagonistic, perspectives on what Bakwit School Cebu was all about.  And the “Bakwit” angle was the missing back story.

2 views on ‘Bakwit’ school

As the government sees it, Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, lead convenor of Bakwit School Cebu, is the umbrella organization of schools engaged in communist indoctrination and revolutionary warfare training of youth belonging to cultural minorities in Mindanao.

The Department of Education has ordered dozens of so-called Salugpongan schools closed across Mindanao.  Local government units, including Davao City, have denied the renewal of their business permit, reinforcing DepEd’s action.

To the SOS Network and the entities and groups helping it locally — such as the Archdiocese of Cebu, University of San Carlos and the SVD community —   this is about children’s fundamental right to education.  

To them, the 19 minors, as well as children in similar plight, were deprived of the right to education because of intensified military operations in tribal communities, which displaced residents and forced the closure of schools there.

Still, minus the accusation of communist agenda in the program, Bakwit School Cebu was organized purportedly to ensure that some of the affected children “could continue their education in a safe, peaceful and friendly environment.”

Among the 19 minors, 13 came from Talaingod, Davao Del Norte; five from Lebak and Columbia, Sultan Kudarat; and one from Pitogo, Zamboanga Del Sur.  They attended Bakwit School Cebu as high school students.

Revolution in study list

Their subjects of study were those offered in regular high school such as math and science.

But a Facebook post from September 2018 by Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante (NKE) UP Cebu shows that the lessons in the Bakwit School Cebu 2018 participants included Jose Maria Sison’s “Youth on the March” and “Maikling Kurso sa Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino” (“Short Course on Philippine Society and Revolution”).

NKE UP Cebu describes itself as a “political and mass organization that aims for a nationalistic, scientific and mass-oriented education for all.” 

It has publicly spoken out and demonstrated against such “causes of concern” as the Anti-Terrorism Law, the arrest of the Cebu Eight, the Negros Oriental killings, and red-tagging of some UP teachers and students.

Did organizers of the Bakwit School Cebu program exploit it by including pro-communist material in the classes? 

“Red” motive was denied by SOS Network and some students and parents but the government — through DepEd, police and military — believes otherwise. Thus, it was a major point of dispute and component of the story that media covered.

This writer could not ascertain whether the Joma Sison and “Rebolusyon” materials were used in both the 2018 and 2019 “Bakwit” school in Cebu.

Most likely they were, since personalities, background, and thrusts of organizers in the two activities are the same.   The news correspondents annotating the Talamban incident did not give context to the incident and context here necessarily included the kind of teaching the students got.

This writer could not ascertain whether the Joma Sison and “Rebolusyon” materials were used in both the 2018 and 2019 “Bakwit” school in Cebu.  

Sison’s courses were also not mentioned in subsequent news reports or by any involved party, whether for or against the February 15 rescue/raid.  

What listeners didn’t get

There were accusations of exploitation of   the “Bakwit” school in Cebu by activists and communists.  And such questions as how the Archdiocese of Cebu and schools like USC and UP Cebu could support a program that allegedly taught revolutionary tactics to students.

They were not considered by the news reporters in the running commentary on the incident. More information clearly was needed for the public to understand the Talamban incident.

 And the back story on the Lumad students and their padlocked schools should have been very much a part of it.