Hontiveros seeks CHR probe of police ‘rescue’ of Lumad students in Cebu

Published February 16, 2021, 2:35 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday, February 16,  urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to look into the alleged rescue operation conducted by the police on several members of an indigenous people’s group in an educational center in the University of San Carlos (USC).

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)

Hontiveros pointed out the University of San Carlos “is a long-standing fixture” in the Philippine academic sector, thus it is imperative for the CHR to check if the police followed procedures in the supposed ‘rescue’ operations of the IPs, whom Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Debold Sinas claims are being trained to become future combatants.

“The University of San Carlos is a longstanding fixture in our academic scene in the Philippines. I respect the expression of the university community, as part of their use of their academic freedom,” Hontiveros said in an interview on ANC Headstart.

“And further, I support an investigation by the CHR…we’ve heard similar stories before. The Supreme Court has pronounced at least once already that such a story did not hold water in that case,” she pointed out.

“The CHR I think, is a lead investigative body, commission that needs to look into whether proper procedures were observed by the national police and whether there were any protocols that were violated,” she reiterated.

Other than protocols being violated, Hontiveros agree there is a “bigger picture” in terms of the conduct of the police operations especially in light of the questions on the Anti-Terror law and the unilateral cancellation of the University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense (UP-DND) accord.

“Indeed that tone seems to be echoed consistently over the past many months or a few years.  It’s a tone that is getting louder and it seems to be getting even more aggressive or violent. So I think it may be part of a disturbing pattern that is emerging in our society,” she said.

“That is why we should tirelessly raise issues about human rights, civil liberties, including academic freedom, and hear all the voices that are speaking up before it’s too late,” she pointed out.

Hontiveros also said she does not believe police’s assertion it was a rescue operation noting how the victims never showed they were relieved when they were supposedly rescued or taken into custody by the police. “So that’s why I really believe the CHR needs to look into this,” she stressed.