7 Lumads undergo inquest via Zoom, CHR 7 starts probe

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SEVEN Lumad teachers and leaders underwent inquest proceedings on Wednesday morning, Feb. 17, 2021.

The inquest was facilitated by Mankilam Tagum City Prosecutor’s Office and conducted through Zoom, a video conference application.

The seven indigenous individuals were among those nabbed by police authorities on Monday, Feb. 15, in a retreat house owned by the SVD priests located inside the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus.

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Police Brigadier General Ronnie Montejo, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, said the evidence they have gathered is strong for the cases of human trafficking, child abuse, and kidnapping they are preparing to file against them.

With the help of an interpreter, a parent of a minor who is a Manobo told Superbalita Cebu that the teachers only asked for permission to bring their children to Davao City in 2018, not to Cebu Province. This is contrary to the statement released by Save Our Schools (SOS) Network Cebu.

The parent said that when they learned that their children are in Cebu, they asked for help from their tribe leaders and the government of Davao del Norte.

CHR 7 inquiry

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 is conducting a "motu proprio inquiry" or probe on the forcible "rescue" of the minor lumads and the "warrantless" arrests of their adult companions by the police inside the retreat house in the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus (USC-TC).

Lawyer Arvin Odron, CHR 7 director, said the probe is also done to determine whether rights were violated or were put at risk of being violated so that they can intervene and protect the same or prevent it from recurring.

"As we deal here with children whose rights are prone or vulnerable to abuse, we want to ensure that all stakeholders act ‘for the best interest’ of our children," Odron said.

The Municipal Social Welfare and Services from Talaingod, Davao del Norte said that only 13 Lumads in the group were identified as minors. The others came from other places.

Odron said that after they learned of the incident moments after the police operation, they immediately dispatched its quick reaction team composed of special investigators.

The team verified and talked with the minors, their adult companions, the police, and the potential witnesses for them to get the full picture of the incident. (AYB, BBT, WBS, NRC)

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