MANILA - Some members of the House of Representatives verbally sparred on Tuesday during the lower chamber's probe into the controversial police raid inside the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus in Cebu City last February.
Cavite 7th District Rep. Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla, the House senior deputy majority leader, and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the senior deputy minority leader, got into a verbal exchange after the former accused a minor -- who was testifying on the Cebu school incident involving indigenous Lumad evacuees -- of being "radicalized," without showing evidence.
"Mikay", who was being heard by the House Committee on Human Rights, said that the police raid, purported by the authorities as a "rescue operation", was unwarranted.
“Hindi po 'yun rescue ... Hindi rin po naming kailangan ng rescue,” Mikay told members of the House panel.
Remulla interjected and claimed the minor "has been radicalized and has no ideas about legalities."
“The statement is there really to appeal to emotion ... it has nil probative value," he claimed, offering no evidence.
Zarate, however, said Mikay is one of the victims in the police raid and should be heard by the House human rights panel.
“Certainly she is testifying on what happened in the incident,” he said.
Remulla then alleged the minor was a propaganda tool, and the "committee knows better."
But Quezon 4th District Rep. Bong Suntay, chair of the panel, said the committee is competent enough to decide on Mikay's testimony.
"I think naman, after we hear the statements and tutal tayo naman mga members ng committee, are old enough to decide,” he said.
Remulla argued that the "propaganda value" of Mikay's testimony "will be very alarming to the government’s interest."
"I don’t think the committee should be listening to a testimony of this nature unless the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) is there," he said.
Zarate then accused Remulla of prejudging the case.
“Nagsisimula pa lang tayo ... Mr. Remulla is prejudging. Kanina gusto niya pakinggan testimoniya ng may direct o karansan sa raid. Ngayon nagsasalita isang biktima, [ayaw] na niya,” he said.
Remulla claimed that the minor is not a victim.
"Hindi ako natatkot sa katotohanan. Kayo natatakot,” he said.
After the Cavite lawmaker accused Mikay of being coached by an adult, Zarate raised a point of order, to which Remulla challenged the Makabayan solon of what was his violation.
"If you cannot answer that then shut up," Remulla said.
“My point of order is this Cong. Remulla is already prejudging," Zarate fired back.
Mikay went on to confirm to the committee that then Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas offered all of the Lumad evacuees P10,000 each.
The minor said another cop, who she did not name, told them that unless they took the cash from Sinas, they will not be able to return to their communities.
The Lumads ended up rejecting the offer of cash.
Remulla also branded as propaganda the testimony of Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save our Schools Network, who earlier said that Lumads and their schools have long been the target of the paramilitary group which allegedly has links with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Due to Remulla's continued interjection of testimonies, House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero appealed to lawmakers to let all sides be heard within 5 minutes with no interruption.
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, a co-author of the House Resolution 1590 that launched the probe into the Cebu school raid, said it was "clear" that the police operation was illegal.
"Ako mismo ay nakaranas ng ganitong karahasan sa aming komunidad. Sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, kami ay nagpupursige pa rin na maitaguyod ang mga paaralang Lumad na kongrektong manipestasyon ng aming karapatan sa sariling pagpapasya," she said.
"Kung kaya’t mahalaga ang hearing na ito at nagpapasalamat kami sa pagdinig na ito Mr. Chair, upang marinig natin ang mga estudyanteng Lumad, mga datu, at mga guro ng Lumad Bakwit School Cebu nang malaman natin ang kanilang kwento ng pakikibaka para sa karapatan sa edukasyon at pagdepensa sa lupang ninuno," Cullamat added.
She noted that those who were arrested in the police raid, known as the "Lumad Bakwit 7" had their cases junked due to insufficient proof.
"Dapat managot ang kapulisan at awtoridad sa likod ng raid na ito. Higit sa lahat, nawa’y maging produktibo ang hearing na ito upang matigil ang atake sa mga Lumadnong paaralan at maitaguyod ang karapatan ng mga katutubo," she said.
As of writing, the probe is still ongoing.
--Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
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