Groups slam arrest of lumad elders, others in police ‘rescue’ in Cebu

Published February 15, 2021, 3:46 PM

by Jhon Aldrin Casinas

Progressive groups denounced the arrest of lumad elders and other individuals in a “rescue” operation of government forces inside the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City on Monday, Feb. 15.

Police Regional Office (PRO-7) held a rescue operation to indigenous people from Mindanao as most of them are minors, who were brought to Cebu to allegedly participate in militant activities (Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)

Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, condemned the operation which was conducted by the Police Regional Office 7 and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officials.

“The screams of the Lumad children could be heard in the circulating videos of the raid and arrests. They were clearly terrified. Why is it also that the government forces seemingly did not respect the status of the University of San Carlos as an academic institution?,” Reyes said in a tweet.

In a statement, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women denounced the operation which was conducted by Police Regional Office 7 and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officials.

The peasant women group said 26 people including a teacher and three lumad elders were “illegally arrested” in the operation, which they said was conducted under the pretext of “rescue operation.”

“Ito ay tahasang pagyurak ng gobyernong Duterte sa karapatan ng mga lumad na sapilitang lumikas mula sa kanilang mga komunidad dahil sa matinding militarisasyon (This is the Duterte government’s explicit violation of the right of indigenous peoples who were forced to flee their communities due to intense militarization),” Amihan National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

“Hindi nila kakailanganing manatili sa Cebu at sa iba’t ibang lugar kung hindi sila dinadahas at sapilitang isinasara ang kanilang mga paaralan,” Soriano added (They will not have to stay in Cebu and in other places if they were not harassed and their schools forced to close,” Soriano added. 

According to the group, lumad schools have been the targets of attacks under the Duterte government, with more than 170 Lumad schools were “forcibly” closed.

In a live stream of Save Our Schools Network, children were seen screaming inside a room during the supposed rescue operation.

Philippine National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Brandi Usana told reporters that reports on the alleged raid of lumad school were “slanted and malicious,” adding that 21 lumad minors from Talaingog, Davao (Norte) were “rescued from a number of arrested suspects” during the operation.