A Church group said its four volunteer teachers missing since November 12 were abducted and are being detained by government soldiers in Lanao del Sur.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) today said Philippine Army troopers illegally arrested and are detaining literacy-numeracy volunteer teachers Tema Namatidong (28), Julius Torregosa (30), Ariel Barluado (22) and Giovanni Solomon (30).
Citing reports from its Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (NMR) office, RMP said that the four teachers were conducting classes on agriculture and community beautification when soldiers belonging to the 51st and 81st Infantry Battallions on board four military trucks arrived at Sitio Babalayan, Barangay Durongan, Tagoloan 2, Lanao del Sur, morning of November 12.
The soldiers were said to be looking for Sultan Jamla and Datu Langi who are community leaders in the area.
From then on, the volunteers went missing and cannot be contacted, RMP said.
On November 27, 2018, RMP-NMR and the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Iligan City were able to contact Corporal Rico Ordaneza of the 103rd Infantry Brigade who confirmed that the four are in his unit’s custody.
“We demand the immediate release of our volunteer teachers. They have been in the custody of the 103rd Brigade for 15 days– more than the prescribed number of days allowed by law that police/military personnel can detain suspected persons or persons of interests without cases filed before them,” Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP national coordinator said.
A mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), the RMP said its literacy-numeracy program in Mindanao is an effort to reach communities too far away from regular schools, and is implemented with the help of the community members.
“These volunteer teachers are helping the children of their own community. Not everyone can have the perseverance and dedication that they have. They should be treated with respect and admiration and not be harassed and persecuted, ” Belardo said.
The RMP said the incident is among the latest attacks against tribal schools, students and teachers that have intensified especially with the Mindanao-wide Martial Law still in place.
On November 17, Esteban Empong Sr., 49, a member of a Lumad school’s Parents-Teachers Community Association was shot dead while asleep in a relative’s house in Kitaotao, Bukidnon while five students who are all minors were allegedly tortured by soldiers of the 19th IBPA while they were on their way home in Magpet, North Cotabato on November 18, the group cited.
The group also stated that that under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, one to two Lumad schools are being attacked every day with threats and harassments, military encampment, illegal arrest and detention, torture, destruction of schools, forcible closures and extrajudicial killings of teachers, parents and even students and among others.
“We demand an end to these attacks and we call on our friends from the religious community to denounce this latest arrest and echo the call for the release of our teachers. “ Belardo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)