MANILA – The parents of the 19 indigenous peoples (IP) students maintained that their children were rescued by authorities on their behalf, contrary to the Makabayan bloc’s claims that it was a military raid.
The rescue resulted in the arrest of seven individuals inside the University of San Carlos (USC) campus in Cebu City on February 15, 2021.
In Friday’s special edition of the National Task Force to End Local Communists Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) virtual press conference dubbed "TAGGED: Debunking lies by telling the truth", parents of the abducted IP students narrated how they searched for their missing sons and daughters for years after they were taken without their consent by persons who claimed they were educators but were in fact communist rebels.
Fifteen parents and 13 IP children attended the press conference.
Bae Pilar Libayao, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, narrated how she and the parents of the abducted students asked for the government's help in finding the students.
She said the parents came to her for help in finding their children. After making inquiries around the community, she found out that the students were brought to Talaingod and subsequently to Cebu City, allegedly for their education.
"Bakit ganoon ang ginawa sa mga tao ko? Bakit pinapirma ang mga magulang ng hindi nila alam ang sinasabi (Why did they do this to my people? They were made to sign something that they do not understand)?” adding that most of the members of her tribe do not know how to read or write.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Region 7 report said the tribal leaders and six of the parents went to their headquarters on July 2019 to report the missing children.
Law enforcement and government agencies accompanied the group when they visited the USC campus, escorted by unarmed female members of the Women's and Children's Protection of the Philippine National Police.
When the parents and their children were about to approach each other, seven persons blocked their paths, prompting the female police officers to shout for help.
Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson on Legal Affairs and IP concerns, said that indeed, crimes were committed by their abductors, particularly child abuse, illegal detention, and trafficking.
“The state mandates that the custody of the children will always be with their parents. What is Chad Booc’s right over these minors? Right there and then, the parents denied them custody,” Bosantog pointed out, referring to one of the abductors.
“Until now, wala pa ding pinapakitang (they can’t show that) consent was given. You cannot bring one person to another (place) without parental consent,” he added.
He added that the government has also filed cases for violations of International Humanitarian Law for turning IP minors into child warriors.
It can be recalled that the AFP reported that the New People's Army (NPA) has abducted 544 children since 2010 and forced them to become child warriors.
The NPA is the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Bosantog branded as “pure lie” the claim of Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives that what happened at the USC was a military raid.
“Search warrants are not required (in rescue operations). The parents have the right to take back their children from any person whom they did not authorize (their children) to be with," Bosantog explained.
The United Nations states that “regardless of how children are recruited and of their roles, child soldiers are victims, whose participation in conflict bears serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being. They are commonly subject to abuse and most of them witness death, killing, and sexual violence. Many are forced to commit violent acts and some suffer serious long-term psychological consequences.”
The European Union, through Council Decision 2011/70/CFSP dated January 11, 2011, designated the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.
The CPP-NPA is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PR)