Parents of rescued IP kids hopeful justice will be served

By Che Palicte / Philippine News Agency

SEEKING JUSTICE. Datu Butigon Mandakawan (4th from left), along with the other parents of the Indigenous People's students who were rescued at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City early this year, listens to the government officials who attended a press briefing in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, on Tuesday (May 18, 2021). The parents have called on the government to help them obtain justice for their children. (Photo courtesy of 10ID)

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte – Parents of the rescued Indigenous People (IP) minors in Cebu City on February 15 have entrusted the fate of the case to the government, even as they appeal for justice for their children, whom they said were "victimized and used" by the "Bakwit School" respondents.


This came after the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Davao del Norte dismissed the charges against the seven respondents -- known as "Bakwit School 7"--for “lack of probable cause, and lack of territorial jurisdiction.”


In a resolution dated May 5, the provincial prosecutor also ordered the immediate release of the respondents.


One of the parents, Datu Butigon Mandakawan, expressed optimism that with the help of the government, justice will soon be served to their families.


Appeal for help


“Help us to fight against them. They need to face trial for kidnapping and abducting our children,” he said in vernacular during a press briefing here on Tuesday.


Mandakawan also appealed to the government to file charges against the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who are "victimizing" their children.


Mandakawan said he wanted justice not only for his child but also for his wife who died due to anxiety upon knowing that their child was brought to Cebu by the respondents.


“She worried a lot and the loneliness caused her death,” he added.


Government’s response


Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for Social Media Affairs and Sectoral Concerns, said they will "definitely back the parents" and file for a motion of consideration.


“Despite the result, we’re also very happy that in the resolution it stated that ‘these crimes were committed.’ It’s just that we need to fine-tune it so that we can respond to what the prosecutor has said. At least we are guided with the resolution. We will file it the soonest, huwag natin silang patulugin nang mahimbing. There is no reason for them to celebrate,” Badoy pointed out.


Badoy assured the parents of the government's "one hundred percent support."


“We are going to help the parents file a motion for reconsideration. This is just a start of a fight that we are going to win for sure,” she added.


She also rejected the claims of the communist groups that the cases were dismissed for being baseless.


"It's a big lie. Baseless is a template response of CPP-NPA. They are the ones who committed terrible crimes," Badoy said, referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines.


Readying charges


Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for Legal Affairs and IP Concerns, said the government is readying charges against the same respondents for violation of Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA).


"This is a separate and distinct offense. Separate special offense from the (original) criminal case," he said in a press release on Wednesday.


The Provincial Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the kidnapping, serious illegal detention, human trafficking, and child abuse charges against Chad Errol Booc, Segundo Lagatos Melong, Benito Dalim Bay-ao, Moddie Langayed Mansimoy-at, Esmelito Paumba Oribawan, Roshelle Mae C. Porcadilla, and Jomar Benag.


Still, Bosantog maintained that the prosecutors had found "elements of the crimes were actually committed."


“It just so happens that the crimes committed were out of the jurisdiction of Davao del Norte, so the filing of the case is improper," he explained, noting that the alleged crimes were committed while transporting the 19 IP students from Davao del Norte to the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.


In December 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the NPA and the CPP as terrorist organizations.


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)

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