POLICEMEN and social welfare officials swooped down a facility inside the University of San Carlos in Talamban campus Monday morning, February 15, to "rescue" 19 minors who are members of an indigenous group in Davao del Norte.
The administration of the University of San Carlos and the SVD Philippines Southern Province issued a joint statement clarifying the presence of lumads in the SVD-owned retreat house.
MISSING FOR 2 YEARS
Six parents of the Lumad minors sought the assistance of the Municipal Social Welfare and Services in Talaingod about their missing children.
According to a mother, who requested not to be named, a group came to their tribe and took their children to continue their education in Davao City after the school in their place was closed by the Department of Education.
However, the kids were never returned since they left in 2018.
They only knew that their missing children are in Cebu City after one of the minors returned home last month.
They then sought the assistance of the social welfare officials, who coordinated with the local authorities in Cebu.
A mother of a 15-year-old boy was very happy and thankful and she finally found her son after searching for almost three years.
“Magpasalamat ko nga na kita ko da ya anak ko,” the mother said.
HOW DID THEY ARRIVE IN CEBU
One of the Lumad leaders, who was arrested for allegedly kidnapping the minors, explained that they arrived in Cebu City after the Department of Education shut down their school.
“Naa mi diri tungod kay gipa sirad-an man gud sa departamento (DepEd) ang among eskwelahan apil ang mga military og gipa guba ang among eskwelahan maong ang among kabataan nag padayon sa pag eskwela diri sa Cebu,” said Datu Benito Bay-Ao, one of the Lumad leaders, who brought the minors in Cebu City.
According to Bay-Ao, they were supposed to leave Cebu in April 2020 but Cebu City was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and was on lockdown.
They were also not able to get a letter of acceptance from their barangay, leaving them stranded in Cebu City.
BAKWIT SCHOOL PROGRAM
The USC administration, in a statement, said the SVD on March 11, 2020, hosted the delegation of 42 students accompanied by five teachers and three community elders after four other educational institutions in Cebu hosted the same.
Hosting the delegation is part of the bakwit school program with Save our Schools network, which is a project of the Commission on Social Advocacies (Cosa) of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
The statement said the delegation was supposed to complete their modular schooling on April 3, 2020, and return to their respective indigenous communities but Cebu City was placed under ECQ in March 2020.
According to USC, plans were made for their safe return to their homes but because of the logistical requirements in traveling back, it was planned to send them back in batches.
Four delegates have so far returned home, while another batch was scheduled to travel back this week.
"It, thus, came as a surprise that reports about minors being ‘rescued’ surfaced today. While Cosa mentioned that some parents were coming over to fetch their children, it did not dawn on us that the parents' visit will necessitate the presence of policemen," the USC administration said in a statement.
USC stated further that no rescue need be conducted since the lumads’ stay in the retreat house were nurtured, cared for and treated with their best interest in mind.
The police, meanwhile, will be filing charges for kidnapping with serious illegal detention, Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act and Child Abuse against the following:
1. Benito Bay-Ao, 54, of Talaingod, Davao del Norte
2. Segundo Melong, 55, of Talaingod, Davao del Norte
3. Esmelito Paumba Torebawan, 19, of Bukidnon
4. Chad Ramirez Booc, 27, of Mandaue City
5. Jomar Manliquez Binag, 21, of Compostela Valley, Davao de Oro
6. Moddie Langayed Mansumoy-at, 20 of Talaingod, Davao del Norte
7. Roshelle Mae Porcadilla, 21, of North Cotabato.
According to Police Regional Office-Central Visayas Director Police Brigadier General Ronnie Montejo, the parents claimed that their children were taken by Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon
Montejo said Salugpongan is a communist group that recruits young lumads to fight against the government.
Montejo alleged that the group asked for donations for the school of the lumads. (AYB/MVG)