/ 12 April 2021

THE SAVE Our Schools Network Cebu on Sunday slammed the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas for transporting five Lumad children back to Mindanao.

In a statement, SOSNC said that DSWD-7 “forcibly transferred” the minors without seeking any parental consent and a court order.

“The parents, who were supposed to fetch their children, were not able to see them because they were not at all informed of the transfer,” SOSNC said.

“It is clear that even the children themselves do not want to be brought to Mindanao without their parents or any trusted individual,” it added.

A post by the network showed a child pulling away from what seemed to be her guardian.

“A certain social worker named Brenda Abilo is said to be accompanying the Lumad children on the flight. At one point, the children attempted to be with the SOS Team. We demand the DSWD-7 to provide updates on the whereabouts of the children,” the network said.

The Lumad children were rescued on February 15 at the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus. The Police Regional Office 7 claimed that they were being trained as New People’s Army combatants.

The DSWD reported that 13 other children who belong to the Ata Manobo tribe in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte were sent home last March.

Staff Sgt. Norkaya Dica of the Police Regional Office-Region 11 earlier said that Lumad minors were undergoing skills training by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

However, SOSN said that the government still fails to realize why the Lumad students went to Cebu.

“In the first place, the raid at the Lumad Bakwit School in Cebu was not a rescue operation but a violent raid. Yet the government forces the narrative that these children went to school by force,” it said.

“We demand that the government agencies and local government units responsible for such violations against the children be held accountable,” it added.