Strange lessons at Lumad schools

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Children of the Lumad tribal minority were being brought to schools which provide unusual or different lessons similar to where two leftist personalities were planning to bring a group of young students, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday.

Former partylist Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, ACT Teacher’s partylist Rep. France Castro and 70 others, including 14 minors, were arrested in Davao del Norte for alleged human trafficking.

They were on board five vans when they were held at a checkpoint last 29 November.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said Ocampo and Castro are bringing the young lumads to a school where the national anthem is also “different.”

“The children are being forced to enter those schools, 14 minors were found with them,” he added.

Due process served

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the rule of law must always prevail as he urged Ocampo and his supporters to refrain from jumping into conclusion regarding his arrest.

“Mr. Ocampo, together with all the accused, has been given 10 days to file their respective counter-affidavits to refute the allegations against them, hence due process is being accorded them,” Panelo said.

“Rashly jumping into conclusions and engaging in propaganda war not only is unproductive but also an attempt to resort to trial by publicity against the government by those identified with the Left,” he added.

Ocampo and his companions were charged for allegedly violating the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act (Republic Act 9208) and the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Distribution Act (Republic Act 7610).

Avoid propaganda

Ocampo is one of four left-leaning activists with standing arrest orders from a Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court (RTC) in July for murder charges. This, however, was overturned the following month.

Panelo called on their supporters not to use the arrest to engage in a “propaganda war” against President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration and just let the legal process take its course.

“There is no room for short cuts that impair the legal processes. Let the constitutional processes proceed without fear nor favor,” Panelo said.

The left-wing individuals have been detained at the police station in Talaingod, Davao del Norte since Wednesday evening after they were allegedly attacked by unidentified men.

Rescue mission?

An information from Castro indicated the National Solidarity Mission (NSM) joined by Castro and Ocampo was allegedly blocked by elements of the Philippine Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Igang, Barangay Palma Gil at around 8 p.m. of Wednesday.

According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes, the whole humanitarian mission was held “on the pretext that the minors with them were traveling without permit.”

“The context is that they had to rescue the students and teachers that night because their school was forcibly closed by a paramilitary group,” Reyes said.

Ocampo said the military had accused communist rebels of recruiting new members from the Lumad school.

Ocampo, Castro and 17 others were charged on Thursday with trafficking and for allegedly holding minors during the said solidarity mission in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Joint mission

Albayalde said soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines were part of the security forces during the arrest but the arresting officers were from PNP.

“If there will be complaints from the parents of the minors, Ocampo will have a major problem,” Albayalde added.

The PNP chief welcomed the possible filing of counter charges by the camp of Ocampo and Castro against the PNP and AFP officers involved in their alleged harassment and detention.

“It’s their right to file counter-charges according to law,” Albayalde said.

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