Judge says lumad girl being held on basis of ‘bare allegations,’ orders her release | Inquirer News
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Judge says lumad girl being held on basis of ‘bare allegations,’ orders her release

By: - Senior Reporter / @inquirervisayas
/ 08:19 PM March 12, 2021

CEBU CITY—A judge here ordered the immediate release of one of several lumad students who had been taken into custody by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DPWH) in Central Visayas following a police raid in a university campus last  Feb. 15.

In a ruling on March 11, Judge Leah Geraldez said the lumad child, a 16-year-old girl, has to be returned to her father as the court found no factual and legal basis to keep her at the regional DSWD’s Crisis Intervention Center.

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“The court cannot deprive the petitioners of such a fundamental right as parental authority over his child based on bare allegations alone,” said Geraldez, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 20.

The ruling was made on the case filed by the girl’s father, Lope Haictin, with the help of Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the group Cebu For Human Rights and Free Legal Assistance Group last March 4.

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In the petition for a write of habeas corpus, Haictin asked the court to compel Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, Central Visayas police chief, DSWD regional director Rebecca Geomala and DSWD employee Brenda Abilo, to present his daughter in court.

The minor was among 19 lumad students that the regional DSWD office and police “rescued” from the retreat house of University of San Carlos’ (USC) Talamban campus last Feb. 15.

According to police, the children were being indoctrinated and exploited by a group that operates schools for lumad children in Mindanao and sends the children to join anti-government protest rallies.

But this was denied by officials of Save Our Schools (SOS) Network Cebu, a group of child-focused nongovernment organizations, Church-based groups and other groups advocating children’s right to education and priests and executives of USC.

They said the lumad children were being helped get education and not being used for militant or Leftist activities.

The lumad, they said, were given shelter at USC as part of the university’s “bakwit program” to help indigenous peoples displaced from war-torn areas in Mindanao continue their studies in safer places.

Last Feb. 21, at least 13 of the 19 indigenous minors in Cebu were flown back to their hometowns in Davao Del Norte while some, including Lope’s daughter, remained in government custody.

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Last Feb. 24, Haictin said he arrived in Cebu after learning that his daughter was among those being held.

Haictin said he was able to talk to his daughter last Feb. 26 but he was barred from further communicating with his daughter after that.

In October 2019, Haictin said his daughter sought permission to join the Bakwit School program to continue her studies. He said he agreed.

While his daughter was in Cebu, he said she regularly communicated with him and her mom through mobile phone.

Haictin said he had also been giving his daughter an allowance of P1,000 to P2,000 every month.

He denied claims that his daughter is a member of an armed or terrorist group.

Judge Geraldez, in her ruling, said the child became like a prisoner.

“The fact is she does not have freedom of movement, she cannot see anyone from outside without the approval of the respondents, and she does not have freedom and privacy of communication,” she said in her ruling.

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TAGS: Army, custody, DSWD, judge, lawyers, lumad, red, Regions, ruling
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