MANILA - Militant organizations on Friday condemned the arrest and detention of former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and ACT party-list Rep. France Castro in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
Ocampo and Castro’s group was apprehended at a checkpoint Wednesday after they were found carrying 14 minors who are reportedly students of the Salugpungan Learning Center, a school for Lumad children.
They have since been charged with human trafficking and kidnapping, both non-bailable offenses, and failure to return a minor.
Authorities claimed they failed to produce written parental consent for the minors, and were earlier subject of complaints “of parents and tribal leaders” in the area.
Ocampo and Castro’s companions, also arrested, are the following:
Pastor Edgar Ugal
Rev. Ryan C. Magpayo
Pastor Eller A. Ordeza
Rev. Jurie Jaime
Maria Concepcion Ibarra
ACT Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio called for the immediate release of the group.
“Mga church workers ito, human rights activists, at iba pa na nakakulong ngayon at sinampahan ng kaso ng PNP. Walang anumang batayan yung pinalalaganap ng PNP ngayon," he said during the protest.
"Ang totoo ang mga tunay na nag-aabuso sa mga lumad children at teachers nila ay mga military at Alamara, ito yung paramilitary group na hawak ng militar. Ilang linggo na silang pinalilibutan, ang kanilang eskwelahan,” he added.
Kris Navales, president of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association, was close to tears as he vouched for Castro’s commitment towards educating Lumad.
“Kasama namin siya (Castro), kalahok namin siya sa mga panawagan namin simula sa pagtaas ng sahod… at karapatan ng mga lumad sa edukasyon. Sa nangyari… nakikita natin yung mga proseso, mga batas ay nalalabag. Hindi nirerespeto ng mismomg gobyernong ito ang mga batas na dapat ay umiiral sa ating bansa," he said.
“Isang solidarity mission ang pinunta nila ma’am France… ano ang ginawa ng gobyernong ito?”
ACT national president Joy Martinez also became emotional as she condemned the arrests.
“Sa bibig mismo ni Pangulong Duterte na bobombahin niya mga lumad schools. Nakakagalit ang araw na ito; ang ating emosyon kelangan natin itransform sa pakikibaka,” she said.
Makabayan secretary-general Nat Santiago said he was the one who convinced Ocampo and Castro to be part of the mission.
“Kung alam nyo lang po ang katotohanan bago ang pangyayaring yun… pinadlock ang eskwelahan ng paramilitary. Andyan an imminent threat, ano gagawin mo? Pupuntahan mo pa mga magulang sa kabilang bundok para ipagpaalam sila (students)?” he asked.
Former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo also attended the protest action, which culminated in candlelighting.
PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Benigno Durana, in an interview with ANC, however, said that what Ocampo and Castro's group did was a “serious violation of the law.”
"You cannot bring anybody's children without the authority or consent of the parents," he said, as he explained that the Lumad school was “closed down” by the Department of Education "upon the request of tribal leaders."
"This Salugpungan Learning Center were actually teaching children to rebel against the government and they've changed our national anthem into something that calls for the overthrow of the government,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier slammed Lumad schools for spreading subversive ideas.
“Iyung mga Lumad, they are operating without the DepEd’s permit. Kasi eskwelahan sila, but they are teaching subversion, communism,” Duterte said in a news conference after his 2017 State of the Nation Address.
“Umalis kayo dyan, sabihin ko sa mga Lumad. Bobombahan ko iyan, isali ko iyang mga istraktura. I will use the Philippine Air Force. You are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government. Kung may kalokohan kayo, eh di mas lalo na ako,” he added.
Duterte had earlier vowed his administration will help provide livelihood to Lumad in Mindanao.
Duterte vows to help livelihood of Lumad