MANILA - The University of San Carlos on Tuesday denied that the Archdiocese of Cebu-Commission on Social Advocacies (COSA) was involved in training indigenous children for combat as alleged by police.
Parents had asked for police assistance after not seeing their children for two years, said Lt. Col. Aurora Rayos, information officer of Police Regional Office-Central Visayas.
The children, however, had been staying in the retreat house inside USC Talamban campus for nearly a year and were accompanied by teachers and datus or village chiefs, said university president Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr.
"From the perspective of USC, the so-called rescue, which can also be called as a raid, came unannounced, uncoordinated, and in a way warrantless," he told ANC's Headstart.
Philippine National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana had alleged that the indigenous children were being trained to be combatants by the COSA, which Cellan denied.
"I don’t think those accusations hold true but maybe he’s talking about other organizations which I think should not be applicable to COSA," the priest said.
"I don’t have personal engagement with COSA but based on this experience basically they try to help people who are in need of assistance, people who are from the marginalized group of our society and especially the indigenous communities."
Cellan said the children were given accommodation "upon the request of the Archdiocese of Cebu."
"These children come from indigenous communities and they have their own customary laws in terms of parental consent and even decision making so I would leave it to the experts what’s the power relations or dynamics between parents and village chiefs in determining the plight of children and making decisions for their education," he said.
Police during the supposed rescue operation took into custody 19 minors from an Indigenous Peoples group based in Davao del Norte and arrested 7 people, including a teacher.
The police maintained there was no irregularity in the operation.
"'Yong tinuturo nila is against the government as per nakita natin na documents," Rayos said.
(What they teach there is against the government from the documents that we saw.)