13 'rescued' Lumad minors brought to Davao del Norte, police say

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2021 11:05 PM

DAVAO CITY -- Thirteen minors who were allegedly rescued by police from the University of San Carlos retreat house in Cebu City belonging to the group of the Indigenous People of Talaingod, Davao del Norte arrived at Francisco Bangoy International Airport on Sunday evening.

Police Regional Office XI said in a statement that the said minors were welcomed by PRO XI Deputy Regional Director for Operation PCol Edgar Alan Okubo together with Davao del Norte Police Provincial Office Director PCol Ranie Hacuela, and Davao del Norte Tribal Leaders.

The minors, together with their parents, were transported to a quarantine facility in Talaingod town immediately after their arrival at the airport.

"With the foregoing, a case of kidnapping against the personalities responsible in taking the children to Cebu without the knowledge and consent of their parents will be initially filed thereat," the PRO XI said.

Police Brigadier General Filmore Escobal ordered further investigation on the alleged exploitation of IP minors.

“These children were taken from their parents with false promises of bright future pero ang akala nilang magandang buhay ay ginagamit lang pala ang kanilang mga anak nitong mapagsamantalang grupo," he claimed.

The police on Tuesday maintained there was no irregularity in the supposed rescue operation as some parents reported that their children have not returned home for 2 years.

"It was a rescue [operation] because there were 6 parents who asked for assistance," Lt. Col. Aurora Rayos, information officer of Police Regional Office-Central Visayas, told ANC.

However, Save Our Schools (SOS) Network condemned the "rescue operation", saying that policemen suddenly entered the school without permission.

"The Lumad schoolchildren along with the teachers and elders had sought refuge at USC as these same state forces and paramilitary members had threatened to kill teachers and students that forced them to leave their ancestral communities and sought refuge in the cities," SOS said.

The Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas earlier said that indigenous students who were supposedly rescued from a university in Cebu City were not kidnapped or indoctrinated with communist teaching, according to preliminary findings.

"If based on what we have gathered from the interviews with the students, there was no force or intimidation they were taken against their will, an element in kidnapping," CHR 7 chief investigator Leo Villarino told ANC.

The students, who stayed at a retreat house inside the University of San Carlos, were not indoctrinated to join the communist movement, the agency also found.

The agency has launched an investigation into the supposed rescue operation of 19 students, who are members of an indigenous people’s group in Davao del Norte. - with a report from Hernel Tocmo

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