Satur Ocampo’s group freed; gov’t ‘dirty work’ hit
DAVAO CITY—Two days after being arrested in far-flung Talaingod, Davao del Norte province, Satur Ocampo and other activists, now called the “Talaingod 18,” were released on Saturday night as their supporters denounced security forces for the “dirty work” used against them.
Lawyer Joel Mahinay of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao said he posted a bail bond for his clients, including the former Bayan Muna representative, amounting to P1.44 million.
Mahinay said Executive Judge Arlene Palabrica of the Tagum Regional Trial Court had to order the police to present the group before her twice, but the police did not comply until late Saturday night.
The group, which also includes ACT Rep. France Castro, was charged with kidnapping and trafficking of children from a “lumad” or indigenous people’s school that earlier complained of being harassed by security forces.
The group’s lawyers said the 18 activists were part of a 75-member “solidarity mission” that only wanted to bring food and other supplies to a lumad school in Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod.
Police, military harassment
Officials of the school, one of two operated by Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc., complained that they had been harassed by the military since June.
Lolita Muya, the school president, said soldiers of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion even set up camp near their other campus in June, a charge the military denied.
Muya said that on Oct. 25, soldiers and members of the Alamara militia gave them a week to leave the school in Sitio Nasilaban.
On Nov. 1, four Alamara men returned and threatened to kill the teachers if they didn’t leave the place, prompting the teachers to flee to the Salugpongan school in Sitio Dulyan, Muya said.
But on Wednesday, Alamara militiamen also padlocked the school at Sitio Dulyan, prompting the lumad teachers to flee with their students in tow and seek help from the solidarity mission that was lobbying with government officials in Tagum City, she added.
When the group received the teachers’ distress call, they decided to go to the school in a convoy of five vehicles to rescue the teachers and students. They were arrested on their way out of Talaingod.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde on Saturday tried to justify the operation and claimed that the Salugpongan teachers had been teaching their students a “different curriculum.”
Albayalde said in a radio interview that the Talaingod 18 were arrested at a checkpoint.
“When we spoke with the lumad, they said they were being taught a different national anthem. They forced 14 minors to that school where they teach something different,” Albayalde said, reiterating the military’s claim that the school had been shut down.
For Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, the police used the legal process “to persecute people. Make false charges, detain the victims and make them crawl through the reactionary legal processes.”
He accused the Duterte administration of copying the Arroyo administration’s controversial “Bantay Laya” strategy, which has been linked to extrajudicial killings.
“The same tactic of legal offensive used under ‘Oplan Bantay Laya’ of Arroyo is being used under ‘Oplan Kapayapaan’ of Duterte,” Sison said in an online interview from Utrecht in the Netherlands.
“They started some time ago. They are going to accelerate their dirty work,” he added.
Oplan Bantay Laya was the counterinsurgency strategy that the military adopted against the CPP and the New People’s Army during the Arroyo administration.
Officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) denied they ordered the school closed.
“Who said that? They should have asked us … We never issued any closure order,” said Jenelito Atillo, DepEd regional spokesperson. “If ever DepEd would do so, everything would have to go through due process.” —With reports from Germelina Lacorte, Mart Salambud, Delfin Mallari Jr., Jerome Aning and Krixia Subingsubing
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