The Philippine Commission on Human Rights announced yesterday that it has dispatched a team to investigate the alleged “rescue” of lumad (indigenous) students and the arrest of their teachers from a Cebu City university.
“Given the different claims involving the incident, our interest is to pin down the truth and look forward to the cooperation of all parties concerned as we move forward in our independent investigation,” lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, the Commission’s spokesperson, said in a statement.
It was on Monday when the police reported that they have “rescued” several lumad children from the University of San Carlos after their parents allegedly asked for the authorities’ help. The kids were allegedly indoctrinated by their teachers and were encouraged to join protests.
However, the media reported that during the operation, the children were screaming for help as they were dragged by the cops from their room. The police have filed charges of illegal detention, kidnapping, and trafficking against the seven adults whom they have arrested during the operation.
The University of San Carlos and the Societas Verbas Divini, the congregation that manages the school, have both denied that the children were held against their will, and added that the police did not bother to get their approval before entering the campus. In a statement, they said that the lumad students and their teachers have been staying in the university since March 11 as part of an educational program.
The kids were supposed to return to their homes after the program ends, but they had to be sheltered at the university’s retreat house because quarantine restrictions were imposed in Cebu City.
“It, thus, came as a surprise that reports about minors being ‘rescued’ surfaced today,” they said.
They added that while they were told that the children’s parents were coming over to fetch them, “it did not dawn on us that the parents’ visit will necessitate the presence of policemen.”
“[N]o rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the lumad 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 said.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers, the counsel of the arrested teachers, has said that the police have committed certain violations during the alleged rescue operation, including barging into the retreat house sans a search warrant.
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