/ 18 February 2021

THE COMMISSION on Human Rights has deployed a team to investigate the recent police operation in the University of San Carlos-Talamban campus in Cebu.

“Given the different claims involving the incident, our interest is to pin down the truth and we look forward to the cooperation of all parties concerned as we move forward in our independent investigation,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

Some lawmakers earlier sought an independent probe of the police operation where several children and teachers were apprehended.

Police Regional Office 7 said they conducted the operation after at least six parents traveled to Cebu from Mindanao to seek help in the recovery of their children.

Police Brig. Gen. Brandi Usana, PNP spokesman, said that the raid “can be a big blow to the deceptive handiwork of the Communist Terrorist Group members” allegedly recruiting minors as future armed combatants.

However, the USC and the Societas Verbi Divini Philippines Southern Province said the students who were taken by police were being “nurtured, cared for and treated with their best interest in mind” in a retreat house.

Leo Villarino, special investigator of CHR-Visayas, said they began gathering information on the rescue operation on Tuesday, February 16.

Lumad children and their parents were interviewed.

Villarino said the probe team will also  determine if organizers and university officials committed lapses in bringing the Lumad minors away from their homes in Davao del Norte.

“During the so-called rescue, were there any rights violated? Were force and intimidation used? Where are they being kept right now and were these violations of their rights? These are the kind of possible violations the CHR is interested to look into,” Villarino said.

“The university and organizers of bakwit school program are already part of the story and incidents. And they also need to be asked, considering the complaints from the parents who said their children were away with them without their proper consent,” he added.

The Save our Schools Network reported that 19 minors are now in the custody of the Cebu City Department of Social Welfare and Development.