Human Rights Watch demands release of detained ‘lumad’ in Cebu
MANILA, Philippines — Human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called on the Philippine government to free the “lumad” (Indigenous Peoples) students and teachers, who were arrested after an alleged “rescue operation” by the Police Regional Office – 7 (PRO-7) in Cebu.
“Philippine authorities should stop harassing Indigenous Peoples with baseless allegations. They should release those wrongfully arrested in the raid and ensure the children are reunited with their families,” Carlos Conde, a senior researcher of the New York-based rights group’s Asian Division, said in a statement.
Conde said the raid is just the latest in a “string of violent incidents” targeting indigenous groups and their schools in recent years.
House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero previously called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to relieve the policemen who dragged screaming lumad students and teachers who were staying at the University of San Carlos.
But according to PNP spokesman Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana, the lawmen were just doing their job to rescue the lumad from human trafficking and communist exploitation.
“The good deputy speaker, with all due respect, should also listen to the stories of the other side, the parents […] so that he would be able to realize who to believe in when it comes to the best interest of the children from the Manobo tribe rescued by our authorities out of human trafficking and communist exploitation. and not make any hasty reaction merely on the usual claim of a group of party-list members in Congress every time the police does its job,” Usana pointed out in a statement sent to reporters, reacting to Romero’s call to sack the “rescuers.”
“The police, together with other duty bearers, serve as the real protectors of the rights of these most vulnerable children,” he added.
The seven lumad teachers who are being accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, are now under the custody of PRO-7. Meanwhile, the lumad students are now staying with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
In 2020, tribal leaders appealed to Malacañang to probe the murder of lumads. In the last five years, there are more than 60 lumad killings that were reported.
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