The wealthiest member of the House of Representatives has set up a P500,000 fund to finance the legal action for the release of 15 children from Lumad communities in Mindanao who are currently being held allegedly against their own and their respective parents’ will by the Philippine National Police.
Deputy Speaker and 1PACMAN Partylist Rep. Michael “Mikee” L. Romero, a staunch advocate of children’s rights and welfare, has also demanded the relief of police operatives behind the February 15 raid at the San Carlos University in Cebu City.
“I call on General (Debold) Sinas to relieve these people in Region 7 for subjecting the children to violence during the raid. The children did nothing wrong, there was no terrorism or inculcation of communist ideals taught to them,” he stressed during a virtual press conference on Thursday, February 18.
“These children, reportedly under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, must be given back to their parents,” said Romero.
The House official revealed that he was setting up a P500,000 fund for the team of lawyers to pursue court cases and other legal options for the release of the children from government custody.
Romero and congressmen representing the minority and majority blocs in the Lower House have joined hands in demanding the release of the children even as they aired a collective condemnation of the alleged act of violence inflicted on them.
He presented in the plenary hall on Wednesday several photographs and video clips evidencing that the minors were indeed forcibly taken from the Tambalan campus of SCU by operatives of Police Regional Command 7.
The police defended the legitimacy of its operations to “rescue” the children, adding that acted on the complaint of parents of six of the minors involved.
During the press conference, Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante (NP, Manila) and Reps. Ria Vergara (PDP-Laban, Nueva Ecija) said the video and photographs gave them a clear picture that force had been resorted to in the alleged “police rescue.”
“That was not a rescue operation, it was more of an act of violence or terrorism committed by the police,” said Vergara.
Abante called on his colleagues in the Lower House to join the bid to have the children returned to their parents.
“Is the PNP already giving us a sample of how the anti-terrorism law will be used?” the Manila solon asked.
Romero said a copy of the curriculum for the minors showed that not even one subject was included to “inculcate any ideology”, adding that they are being taught what the Department of Education wants them to learn.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, together with Asst. Minority Leader and ACT-TEachers Partylist Rep. France Castro and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, also joined in the call for the relief of policemen involved in the raid.
The three Makabayan solons batted for the immediate release of all 25 persons apprehended during the raid.
They also joined Romero’s call for the conduct of a congressional inquiry into the SCU incident.