/ 21 February 2021

THE PHILIPPINE National Police called on the Commission on Human Rights to look deeper in its investigation into the rescue of Lumad children at the University of San Carlos-Talamban campus in Cebu earlier this week.

In a statement, PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said the CHR failed to look closely at the issues concerning Lumad minors.

“These children, and their parents, have a lot of stories to tell. If they care enough about the best interest of these children, CHR needs to deepen their objective views in their investigation,” Usana said.

“People might begin to wonder again who do they work for in their investigation if, at face value, after going back to their office, they would write that kind of assessment without looking closely at the plight of these Lumad children exploited in communist indoctrination. These children, and their parents, have a lot of stories to tell,” he added.

Citing the accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and parents of the Lumad children, the CHR’s chief investigator for Central Visayas said there was no evidence the children were coerced to join communist rebels while they were staying at USC-TC retreat house since March of 2020.

But Usana reiterated the PNP is uncompromising when it comes to upholding the protection and welfare of children.

“Indoctrination from the Reds borders on radicalization. One does not measure a mere word shared by these children as basis of how radicals or future radicals think with a very short interview. CHR should know better,” Usana said.

Some 55 Salugpungan schools, an alternative learning hub for Lumad children allegedly run by communist groups, were ordered closed by the Department of Education in 2019 due to several violations, including the relocation of students away from their homes without their parents’ consent.

DepEd also found out the teachers of Salugpungan schools do not have the professional license to teach, and operated within the ancestral domain of tribal communities without obtaining the mandatory Free and Prior Informed Consent and certification from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

“Let us allow the PNP-DSWD authorities to do their work according to what they see is fit for the best interest of the Lumad children,” Usana said.

At least seven people who were arrested in the supposedly rescue operation last February 15, are now facing complaints of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and violation of anti-child abuse law, and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.