19 Manobo kids recruited by alleged communist group rescued in Cebu

Published February 15, 2021, 9:23 PM

by Calvin Cordova 

Police on Monday rescued 19 children belonging to an indigenous group in Mindanao.

(photo from Juan Carlo De Vela)

The police also arrested seven persons who were responsible for bringing the children to Cebu.

Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, chief of the Police Regional Office-Central Visayas (PRO), said the children, who are members of the Manobo tribe, had been staying in the retreat house of the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus (USC-TC) since 2018.

Montejo said the rescue operations was conducted after six parents from Talaingod, Davao del Norte sought help from the police.

The parents were accompanied by social workers from Talaingod. 

“The children have been separated from their parents since 2018. They are victims of indoctrination and recruitment by the Communist Terrorist Group and exploitation by the Salugpungan as they were used during protest rallies against the government. They also asked for donations using the IP (Indigenous People) minors,” said Montejo.

Montejo said the Salugpungan was a learning institution ran by the CTG.

Salugpungan was closed due to alleged teachings that are against the government.

Bae Ogita Sacoloban, a leader of Manobo tribe, said the children were promised for a free education but the parents were unaware that the children had been brought to Cebu.

“The parents have been looking for their children. They didn’t have the resources to go to other places to look for their children,” a social worker from Talaingod said. 

A commotion erupted during the rescue operation when some of the children refused to go with the police.

“We also don’t know why they were unwilling to go with the authorities. We don’t know what were being taught to them that they no longer wanted to leave the retreat house,” the social worker said in Cebuano.

The police were accompanied by personnel from the Cebu City Social Welfare Development Office, Women and Children Protection Center Visayas Field Unit and Children Protection Desk of the Cebu City Police Office.

Montejo said the seven persons who brought the children to Cebu will face charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and violation of the Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and the Anti-Child Abuse Law.

The children will undergo necessary interventions before they will be brought home.

Montejo said the police will conduct further investigation to determine the possible liability of the university.

In a statement, the Society of the Divine (SVD) Philippines Southern Province, the religious community that operates the university, said the rescue was unnecessary “because the presence of the lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being and all throughout.”

The SVD said the children were “nurtured, cared for and treated with their best interest in mind.”

The SVD likewise questioned the presence of the policemen in the university.

But Anecita Suico, one of the social workers from the city who accompanied in the operation, defended the presence of the police.

“Their presence was necessary for safety and security,” Suico said.