Defer House probe on rescued IP kids in Cebu: NTF-ELCAC
By Filane Mikee Cervantes / Philippine News Agency
MANILA – A spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Wednesday called for the deferment of the House Human Rights Committee's hearing on the rescue operations by the police and military for Indigenous People (IP) children who were held against their will at the University of San Carlos in Talamban, Cebu City.
During the House hearing, lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for Legal Affairs and IP Concerns, said the congressional investigation is prejudging the case that is yet to attain final resolution.
"Your Honors, the subject issue at hand is a live case, a suit pending. A live case we mean a case now under the rigors and crucible of due process," he said.
Bosantog said while the criminal cases filed against seven persons – two datus (chieftain), two teachers, and three adult IP students – who were arrested during the rescue of the IP students inside a Cebu City university earlier this year were dismissed, a motion for consideration can still be filed.
Earlier, 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.
"The period for the filing of the motion for reconsideration by the State is yet to lapse or expire. The order of dismissal therefore is not final and executory," Bosantog said.
He added that the dismissal was due to a lack of jurisdiction.
He clarified that there were findings in the prosecutor’s resolution that the elements of the crimes were actually committed, yet the venue for filing of the complaints is improper.
"A simple reading of the order of the prosecutor admits existence of the elements constituting the crimes as charged yet the venue for the filing of the criminal complaints is improper, hence, it was dismissed primarily on the issue of lack of jurisdiction," he said.
He said the crimes were committed while transporting the IP students from Davao del Norte to the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.
"And lack of jurisdiction, we understand, does not vest any authority on the prosecutor to resolve the case, even granted that the crimes were committed. The prosecutor, in fact, made the observation that the criminal complaints be filed appropriately in Cebu City or in Davao city where the crimes were committed," he said.
Bosantog said the hearing should also include all necessary parties including the House Committees on Indigenous Peoples' Concern, Education, and Children's Welfare.
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. (PNA with reports from Priam F. Nepomuceno)