On 15 July 2016, Hermie Alegre, president of the Parent-Teacher-Community Association of Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon (Unity in Defence of Ancestral Land) School in Kahusayan, Manuel Guianga Village, Davao City in the Philippines, was shot and killed. He was 31 years old.
Alegre was coming home from a meeting with officials of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples. He was with the tribal chief Danny Diarog, whose father had been killed in 2008 after refusing to sell his ancestral land. The two were shot by gunmen on motorcycles at around 2 p.m. They were rushed to hospital, but Alegre was pronounced dead on arrival. Diarog was critically injured in the attack.
Salugpungan School, where Alegre worked on the PTCA, is a not-for-profit community-learning centre for Lumad (indigenous) children. The Lumad peoples of the island of Mindanao, composed of 18 different ethnolinguistic groups, are some of the poorest people in the country, in spite of the fact that some of the most fertile lands on the island and much of the mineral resources of Mindanao are found within their territories.
They have been fighting for years to protect their ancestral lands against corporate encroachment, plunder, and militarisation. In the name of Oplan Bayanihan, the “Internal Peace and Security Plan” of the Aquino government, Lumads were targeted, harassed, and killed. Their schools were burned, lands taken, and they were intimidated and made to leave their lands, reportedly in order to clear the path for large mining and agri-business corporations. Many became the victims of extra-judicial killings.
ACT Teachers representative Antonio Tinio condemned the killing of Alegre: “This attack is as despicable as it is cowardly.” France Castro, also of ACT Teachers, highlighted the importance of secure education for Lumad children: “Attacks such as this threaten the right of Lumad children to education and a peaceful life. Lumad school and community leaders being targeted by the military, paramilitaries, and private armies mean that indigenous learning and the Lumad way of life is also under attack.” Earlier in the year, Alibando Tingkas, a 15 year-old Lumad student at a Salugpungan school in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, was shot dead by members of the Alamara paramilitary group.
Bev Tang, member of GABRIELA Los Angeles and International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, wrote that “Hermie was a beloved leader whom community members would go to for advice […].”