President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said he supported the arrest of former congressperson Satur Ocampo, party-list Congressperson France Castro, and others on charges of kidnapping and human trafficking.
Ocampo, Castro, and several others went to a school for indigenous peoples (lumad) in the village of Palma Gil in Davao del Norte on Nov. 28 reportedly to deliver food and school supplies to children.
They brought the students with them when they left the area, thinking that they were in danger. However, their group was arrested at a checkpoint when they allegedly failed to provide proof that the parents of the students agreed with their decision to bring their children along.
The group was released after posting bail on Sunday.
While mistakenly referring to Castro a senator, Duterte said the group was guilty of kidnapping.
“You know an ordinary person, especially if you’re a senator, you must be aware that you cannot remove children from one community to another without the consent of the parents. That is actually kidnapping,” he said in Filipino and English to several reporters in Malacañang Palace yesterday.
He also said that Ocampo’s party, Bayan Muna, is a communist front. Duterte said the same is true with labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and feminist group GABRIELA.
“Bayan [Muna] is a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Why are we having this drama? We all know that KMU, GABRIELA, they’re all communist fronts or being used by the communists. You all know that,” Duterte said.
Duterte said communist groups are just using the lumad to serve their own agendas.
“That’s the problem with communists, they are using the lumad, that’s why many of those killed are members of the lumad. Seventy-five of the armed soldiers of the NPA are lumad. It’s such a pity,” he said.
However, Ocampo and Castro were supported by Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. who said in a tweet that the charges were “idiotic.”
Locsin, who was Ocampo’s former colleague in Congress, also said that the charges were “bullsh*t.”
Human trafficking? Bullshit. I won’t even bother to get the other side. I know Satur. We protected him in our Congress against warrants of arrest. https://t.co/SdiKRtVIde
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) November 30, 2018
Meanwhile, Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, said in a statement that Locsin’s statements were purely “personal sentiments” and “do not reflect the official view of the [Duterte] Administration on the issue.”