USC on Lumad ‘rescue’ op: ‘Listen to the children, it is their story’

Published February 16, 2021, 8:09 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Amid the controversies that hound the “rescue operation” involving Lumad minors, the University of San Carlos (USC) on Tuesday, Feb. 16, called on the parties concerned to focus on the children and listen to their plight.

USC president Fr. Narciso Cellan, Jr., in an interview over DZBB, said that in the middle of all speculations on the supposed “rescue” operations is the Lumad children who were possibly traumatized by the incident which happened on Feb. 15 at the USC Talamban Campus in Cebu.

“Let’s listen to the voices of the children,” Cellan said. “This is their story, this is not the story of anybody else but the story of children who are victimized by war and armed conflicts in their homes and they are trying to find a way to receive education, to have a better shot at their future,” he added.

The Central Visayas police conducted the said operations after parents reportedly asked for their help. The Lumads were supposedly rescued because they were being “brainwashed” and were being trained for combat.

Cellan firmly denied these accusations. Instead of jumping into conclusions, he noted that the children “should be asked what is being taught to them.”

The said children, Cellan explained, were staying at the retreat house in the campus since March 2020 in support of the “bakwit school” program together with the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network.

The “bakwit school” program was designed to help Lumads who were displaced in war-torn areas in Mindanao so they can continue their education in safer areas.

“The children were under modular learning, they left their communities due to the armed conflicts and their schools were also closed,” Cellan explained.

Modular learning is one of the alternative learning delivery modalities under the distance learning set-up implemented this school year by the Department of Education (DepEd). “Their lessons are based on the curriculum prescribed by DepEd,” he added.

In the past, Cellan said that the USC had several engagements with the police and military forces. “But this is the first time that they did not coordinate with us,” he said. “Whatever their reason was, it was not enough excuse to justify their unauthorized entry,” he added.

Despite the incident, Cellan said that they remain open to dialogue. “At the end of the, it is about the plight and condition of IP [Indigenous People] children – something that we should discuss as a nation,” he ended.