MANILA - The University of San Carlos and the Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) Philippines Southern Province said they were surprised at the presence of policemen during their "rescue operations" in a Lumad school housed inside the USC Talamban campus in Cebu.
In a joint statement, USC President Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr., and Fr. Rogelio Bag-ao SVD said there was no need for a rescue since the Lumad students were staying in the USC campus due to the lockdown, and they were preparing to return to their homes in batches.
"After being locked down, the SVD Community has since sheltered the delegation at its retreat house, providing them with comfortable accommodation, and allowing them the use of its facilities for the Lumad's recreation," the statement said.
"When the quarantine restrictions loosened, plans were made for their safe return to their homes. Because the return necessitated logistical preparations to be made and entailed costs such as those relating to the swab tests, fare and food allowance, the travel of the delegation was planned to be carried out in batches. At least four of the delegates have so far returned to their place, and another batch was scheduled to return this week," it added.
Both SVD and USC said they were surprised at the presence of policemen in the campus, since the students were staying in the retreat house for their welfare and well-being.
"It, thus, came as a surprise that reports about minors being "rescued" surfaced today. While COSA (Archdiocese of Cebu-Commission on Social Advocacies) mentioned that some parents were coming over to fetch their children, it did not dawn on us that the parents' visit will necessitate the presence of policemen," they said.
"Here, no rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the Lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for and treated with their best interest in mind," they added.
Human rights groups earlier slammed what they called as "fake rescue operations" in the USC campus.
According to Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, policemen suddenly entered the campus and arrested 25 people, including 2 teachers and 2 tribal leaders.
According to Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, they launched the operation because some parents sought their help.
The students were also allegedly being recruited as armed combatants, police claimed.