Hontiveros tells CHR to probe police ‘rescue’ of Lumad students in Cebu City
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) should look into the supposed rescue operation conducted by the police on several members of an indigenous people’s group in an educational center in the University of San Carlos (USC), Senator Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday.
Hontiveros said the CHR should check if the police followed procedures in its supposed rescue operations on the IPs which was launched only parents of six Lumad students allegedly called for help.
While the authorities dubbed the incident as a rescue operation, videos of the scene showed the Lumad children screaming as they were being dragged out of a room.
“The University of San Carlos is a long standing fixture in our academic scene in the Philippines. I respect the expression of the university community, as part of their use of their academic freedom and a further, I support an investigation by the Commission on Human Rights, further investigation of this incident,” Hontiveros said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“We’ve heard similar stories before… The CHR, I think is a lead investigative body commission that needs to look into whether proper procedures were observed by the National Police, and whether there were any protocols that were violated,” the senator added.
Hontiveros likewise agreed when asked if she’s seeing a “bigger picture” in terms of the conduct of the police operations, alongside other issues such as the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the abrogation of the University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense (UP-DND).
“That tone seems to be echoed consistently over the past many months or a few years. It’s a tone that is getting louder. And it seems to be getting even more aggressive or violent. So I think it may be part of a disturbing pattern that is emerging in our society,” Hontiveros said.
The senator also did not buy the assertion of police that it was a rescue operation if one would just rely “on the simple evidence of your eyes watching the video.”
“Hindi mukhang mga biktimang relieved na nare-rescue yung mga dinakip o taken into custody so that’s why I really believe the CHR needs to look into this,” Hontiveros said.
According to Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, Central Visayas police chief, the rescue operation was launched after parents of at least six of the indigenous children sought authorities’ help.
Montejo said investigation results showed that the IPs, mostly minors, were supposed to be brought only to Davao City in 2018. Parents, he said, were worried since their children have not returned home since then.
“Their children underwent indoctrination and asked to attend rallies (in Cebu City),” Montejo said.
However, in a statement, officials of the Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) or the Society of the Divine Word, the congregation that supervises the USC, said the religious order supported the bakwit, or evacuee, school program of the Cebu archdiocese’s committee on social advocacies.
On March 11, 2020, the SVD fathers hosted a delegation of 42 students, accompanied by five teachers and three community elders, at the SVD-owned retreat house. The delegation was supposed to complete their modular schooling on April 3, 2020 and return the children to their communities.
However, a lockdown in March 2020 adopted by the Cebu City government to prevent coronavirus transmission trapped the delegation in the city.
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