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7 charged after cops rescue IP minors in Cebu school

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / Philippine News Agency

MANILA – Police officers filed several charges against seven persons following the rescue of 19 indigenous people (IP) minors in Cebu City earlier this week.

In a statement on Thursday, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas said the respondents -- two datus (chieftain), two teachers, and three adult IP students -- underwent inquest proceedings on Wednesday via teleconference from the Police Regional Office - 7 (Central Visayas) in Cebu City before the Davao del Norte Provincial Prosecutor's Office on charges of kidnapping, child exploitation and human trafficking.

Lawyer Grazielynne Corpuz, duty inquest prosecutor, received the information sheet on the cases under NPS docket Nr XI-03-INQ-21B-00076.

Corpuz gave the respondents 15 days to submit their counter-affidavit, after they manifested through a counsel from the National Union of People's Lawyers to avail of preliminary investigation.

The case stemmed from the complaints by six Ata Manobo parents of the minors inside the University of San Carlos (USC) in Talamban, Cebu City who were rescued by local police on Monday.

In an interview with local media, PNP chief, Gen. Debold Sinas insisted on the legality of the rescue operation.

"Anyway we have filed a case in court. If they have a case to file against us in court, then we will answer it. We will not sign in to media mileage just to say something

the PNP is here to assist the family and file a case. We are basing on facts and hindi po (not) hearsay at gawa gawa lang (or made up stories). We will wait when the time comes. So anyway we do not want to engage in media releases. We will just wait and answer it in the right forum," he said.

This came as some groups claimed as "fake" the rescue operation of indigenous peoples (IP) minors.

"Actually it's a rescue, kasama natin yung DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) ng Davao (del) Norte at ng Cebu City tapos angnag-conduct at yung WCPD (Women and Children's Protection Desk) sa (We have with us the DSWD in Davao del Norte and Cebu City and then it was conducted by the WPCD) Visayas field unit, supervised by the (PRO-7 regional director). Now, I don't know kung anong nilabag na karapatan (what rights were violated). If there is a case and privy po sila (they are privy to it), then submit their complaint to the proper forum and we will answer it accordingly," he added.

A police report said of the 19 rescued IP students, 15 are minors — nine are from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, five from Sultan Kudarat, and one from Zamboanga. Their ages are said to be between 14 and 17 years.

The four others, of Talaingod, Davao del Norte are above 18 years old.

The children were reportedly taken away from their families by teachers of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon without the parents' consent.

Some 55 Salugpungan schools, an alternative learning hub reportedly run by communist groups, were ordered closed by the Department of Education 11 in 2019 due to several violations, including the relocation of students away from their homes without their parents' consent.

DepEd 11 also found out that the teachers of Salugpungan schools do not have the professional license to teach, and operated within the ancestral domain of tribal communities without obtaining the mandatory Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and certification from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The parents said they were made to sign a paper when their children were taken from them but they did not even understand its content. (PNA)



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