The Lumad raided and arrested by the police at a Roman Catholic retreat house inside a university campus last Monday now needs real rescue, a Cebu church leader said.
Fr. Nazario Vocales, Archdiocese of Cebu vicar and executive director of its Commission on Social Advocacy (COSA) called on the government to release the 24 Lumad and two teachers now under the custody of the police.
Vocales said COSA condemns the so called “rescue operation” by the Philippine National Police Regional Office 7 last February 15, adding what transpired was an illegal mass arrest and trespassing.
The priest said the incident was exacerbated by the police’s “terrifying use of force against the Lumad who reside in the premises of the University of San Carlos-Talamban as a venue for their Lumad Bakwit School.”
Vocales recalled that the victims were in a sanctuary provided by the church and with the blessing of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
“It was a fitting way to welcome last year’s “2020 Year of Ecumenism, Inter-Religious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples,” Vocales said.
Vocales urged Cebuanos to once again express support to the Lumad victims as he urged the police and government workers to resist orders that undermine human rights and dignity.
“They need our help and support once more as the safe space for learning and a sanctuary for the stranded was shattered (Monday) by terrifying and illegal acts,” Vocales said.
Twenty-two students, two Lumad elders and two teachers were hauled off in what the police claimed was a rescue operation from a military training school inside the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos.
No less than PNP chief Debold Sinas claimed that “some of the children told (police) investigators that they underwent some form of warfare training while in the custody of their handlers.”
Sinas and the PNP however were immediately rebuffed by a Cebu City social worker who interviewed the Lumad children.
“We won’t comment on that. The children never said that to us. Nothing about training to be child warriors,” Cebu City welfare officer Annie Suico told Philstar.com.
“We interviewed all of the children. They said nothing about being indoctrinated. All their guardians taught them were reading and writing,” Suico added.
Denial of legal service
Meanwhile, Atty. King Perez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Cebu said he finally was allowed to briefly talk with some of the Lumad in a police jail Tuesday afternoon.
Perez however complained that the police is making is making it difficult for lawyers to consult with the Lumad, saying they were made to wait for hours Monday afternoon, to no avail.
The police are being overly-strict on health protocols, Perez said, which is a “huge irony, given that they took the children and the elderly from the safety of a retreat house just to detain them in a crowded jail.”
Perez said they will try to secure the release of the Lumad today, Wednesday, if no inquest proceedings were held last night.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is investigating reports of human rights violations in the incident.
“The (CHR) has already dispatched an investigation team yesterday…to look into the situation involving the alleged rescue of (the) Lumad children,” CHR spokesperson Atty Jacqueline de Guia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)