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NTF-ELCAC seeks full-blown, joint probe on Cebu IP kids rescue

MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Friday urged the House of Representatives to call for a joint and full-blown investigation intio the rescue of indigenous peoples (IP) children in Cebu in order to introduce measures that will strengthen laws on the protection of their rights and welfare.

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, also the Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), in the weekly Report to the Nation Forum sponsored by the National Press Club (NPC), said what transpired at the hearing in Congress on Wednesday was not in any way in aid of legislation but "in aid of NTF-ELCAC abolition".

"If it is really intended in aid of legislation on how to protect the rights of our children, it should be a joint committee hearing involving also the Committee on the Welfare of Children and the Committee on IP concerns," Egco, also a veteran congressional beat reporter, pointed out.

The NTF-ELCAC spokesperson emphasized that the title itself of the resolution that called for a House of Representatives inquiry over the incident inside the University San Carlos in Cebu City in February where 19 IP students were reunited with their parents and tribe leaders, is a biased call for an investigation, making it appear that the perpetrators are the victims.

Egco was referring to House Resolution 1590 titled "Resolution Urging the House of Representatives through the Committee on Human Rights to condemn and investigate, the raid and the mass arrest against Lumad evacuees seeking sanctuary in Talamban, Cebu by elements of the police and the military" penned and called by members of the Makabayan Bloc in Congress.

"In fairness to my friend who chairs the Committee on Human Rights, Rep. Jesus "Bong" Suntay who was still a councilor in Quezon City where I covered as a reporter and as president of the Quezon City Press Club, he was very cordial during the hearing. But what we would like in this issue is for the Committee on Welfare of Children to also be invited as the incident involved IP children and students, who were the real victims in that incident... we ask our leaders in Congress to seek and call for a more objective and wider probe on this matter," Egco explained.

On the other hand, Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, task force spokesperson for social media, said, the title of the resolution itself is an attempt by Makabayan bloc members to hide the "wrongdoing of their comrades" in the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

"The value they will get in this inquiry is their propaganda," she said, adding that is why the Makabayan bloc is not answering her challenge for them to condemn the CPP-NPA-NDF.

"Kasi nga matataas silang mga opisyal ng CPP-NPA-NDF, hindi ba? (Because they are the ranking officials of the CPP-NPA-NDF, aren't they?)" Badoy asked the anchors of the forum, Paul Gutierrez and Joey Venancio who are officials of the NPC.

She added that the Makabayan bloc’s "one sided" resolution was made to protect the perpetrators - the ones who were arrested by the police and military "who were just doing their job" in arresting the individuals who took the IP students and hauled them to their safehouse, "not a sanctuary as they claimed".

Egco clarified that the victims in the incident are the abducted IP students and not their captors who are members of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

The said hearing was suspended by Quezon City 4th District Rep. Suntay, who said he will announce the next deliberation schedule and terminated the discussion after almost five hours.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., vice chairman of NTF-ELCAC, was prevented from saying his piece in the virtual hearing.

Founded in 2009, the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan or Makabayan bloc is a coalition of 12 party-lists in the House of Representatives. Current members of the group serving in Congress are Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna), Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna), Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), Sara Elago (Kabataan Party-list), France Castro (ACT Teachers Party-list), and Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party).

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. (PR)



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