MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came under fire on Wednesday for threatening to bomb schools run by an indigenous group for allegedly teaching subversion and communism to young Filipinos.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded that Duterte take back his threat, which it warned was against international humanitarian law.
“By calling for an attack on schools, Duterte is directing the military to commit war crimes,” the organization said in a statement.
“Duterte should publicly retract his threat of violence against tribal schools before the military acts on them,” the statement added.
Duterte alleged on Monday that schools run by the indigenous Lumad tribe were being used by communist rebels to recruit new members and were operating without permits from the Department of Education.
“They are teaching subversion, communism,” he said in a press conference after his state of the nation address in Congress.
“Get of there now, you Lumads. I will bomb your schools,” he added. “I will use the armed forces, the Philippine air force. I will really bomb that … because you are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government.”
Karapatan, a Philippines-based human rights group, lamented that Duterte’s statements could worsen alleged abuses by the military against the Lumads and other indigenous groups.
“Bullying Lumad kids and communities is one thing — his State forces get away with it every time — but bombing their schools and communities is a war crime, one of the gravest violations under international humanitarian law,” Karapatan said.