ILOILO CITY – Groups that are critical of the rescue of indigenous peoples (IP) minors in Cebu by an inter-agency task group last Feb. 15 hide the truth that parents of the children were present during the anti-human trafficking operation and were in fact the private complainants and aggrieved parties in the case, the Regional Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Western Visayas said Monday.
Prosecutor Flosemer Chris Gonzales, spokesperson for the RTF-ELCAC-6 (Western Visayas), reiterating his statement issued on Feb. 17, said that institutions where the children were rescued should “have undertaken measures to check, verify, confirm, and validate if the minor ‘delegates’ were allowed by their parents to join the ‘delegation’.
“Any assumption to this effect is beyond ordinary oversight; it is reckless, irresponsible, and will definitely warrant the fact that these institutions will have a lot of explaining to do as to why there are trafficked children on their premises and facilities,” he said in a press statement.
He added that the undeniable fact is that the primary goal of the operation was to “reunite the children with their parents”.
“Those who say that the rescued children were saved from conflict in Mindanao are those who have not spoken to the parents of the rescued children. The fact remains that these children were taken away from their parents,” Gonzales said.
The government, he said, has succeeded and those who think otherwise are “either dumb or dimwits”.
He said the trafficked children could be allowed to speak after they undergo the needed psycho-social intervention.
The children, he added, should not be used against their parents.
“The indigenous families must be allowed to be reunited, and nothing must get in between. The only opinion that matters now is the indigenous mothers and fathers whose children were just returned to them,” Gonzales said.
CPP-NPA as root cause of the problem
Gonzales said the real cause of the problem is the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) because without the communist terrorist group, Mindanao would be almost like paradise, as would the rest of the country.
“Those who say that the indigenous peoples are victims of oppression and injustice, We agree. Indigenous children are being forcibly recruited by the CPP-NPA to be child warriors. This is real injustice. This is real oppression,” he said.
Gonzales also challenged the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and the rest of organizations questioning the rescue operations in the “context of the enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws” to condemn the CPP-NPA and their pseudo legal fronts for the atrocities that they have committed against the IPs of Mindanao.
Likewise, he urged them to denounce the recruitment of IP children by the CPP-NPA and turning them into child warriors.
“If you cannot, and if you will not, you simply lost that moral high ground,” he said.
Gonzales added that there could be a need for such groups to rethink their values and convictions if they condemn the reunification of parents with their children but could not do the same for the exploitation and oppression of the indigenous children by the CPP-NPA.
“This is the best time to contemplate the consequences of your action,” he added.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.(PNA)