PNP disputes CHR findings ‘lumad’ kids weren’t brainwashed
The Philippine National Police on Friday disputed the findings of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that the 19 “lumad,” or indigenous children from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, whom the PNP allegedly rescued from the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu were not indoctrinated by communists.
Gen. Debold Sinas, the PNP chief, said the police were conducting a separate investigation into the accountability of USC, owned and operated by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) religious order.
“As PNP chief, I will not allow the communist terrorist groups to take advantage of the vulnerable indigenous communities and their children who are considered as the leftist’s last bastion for deception, manipulation and terror acts in their attempt to overthrow the government,” Sinas said in a statement.
At the same time, Sinas’ spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, challenged the CHR to “deepen its objective views in their investigation.”
“Indoctrination from the Reds borders on radicalization. One does not measure a mere word shared by these children as basis of how radicals or future radicals think with a very short interview. [The] CHR should know better,” Usana said.
Citing the accounts of the students themselves, Leo Villarino, CHR chief investigator for Central Visayas, said the children denied they were indoctrinated to join the communist rebels during their stay at the university.
But the police pressed charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention, child exploitation and human trafficking against the seven people arrested by the PNP Women and Children Protection operatives in a raid on Feb. 15 at a USC retreat house.
A video of the operation showed the lumad children screaming and crying as they were taken away by the police.
The police had claimed that the raid stemmed from the complaints of six Ata Manobo parents that their children, who were taken from a conflict zone in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, in 2018, were brought to Cebu City allegedly without their consent.
But the incident has also raised questions on violations of civil rights and the manner how security forces wantonly Red-tag people espousing democratic processes, including Deputy Speaker Michael Romero, one of the authors of the terror law.
Romero, who represents the 1-Pacman party list, questioned the legality of the police raid on USC and lashed at officials of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict who suggested that he was easily swayed by propaganda.
‘Spare innocent children’
“My strong position against the illegal raid in the Lumad Bakwit Center in Cebu and arrest of 25 students—including 19 minors—is consistent with my advocacies on education and welfare of children. It is my belief that children should never ever be caught in the middle of any armed conflict, especially when it involves our law enforcement agencies,” Romero said in a statement.
“As main author of the antiterrorism law, I stand firm in my belief that insurgency using or promoting violence and other criminal acts should have no place in our nation,” Romero said. “I would like to appeal to all camps to please spare innocent children in this war on insurgency and terrorism.”
The Deputy Speaker, an administration ally, also pushed for an investigation of the raid as he urged the PNP to relieve the policemen involved in the incident. —WITH REPORTS FROM NESTLE SEMILLA AND DALE ISRAEL
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