The Child Rights Network (CRN) has asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to help secure the Lumad children who were reportedly “rescued” by the Philippine National Police (PNP) last February 15 in Cebu City.
CRN, an alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights, pleaded the DSWD to hold the children in the agency’s facility instead of being kept at an undisclosed “safe house.”
It also called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to help and secure these children.
CRN expressed deep concern for the Lumad children who were taken by members of the PNP from the Talamban Campus of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City on allegations that they were engaged in “warfare training.”
It said the situation faced by these Lumad children falls under Republic Act No. 11188 or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (CSAC) Law.
It pointed out that Chapter 7 of the law states that the CSAC “shall at all times be treated in a child-friendly and sensitive manner,” no matter what operation is being conducted.
Section 6 of RA 11188 declares children as “zones of peace,” so government authorities should “exemplify mutual respect and non-violent behavior in the presence of children,” it said.
It lamented that the police operation in Talamban allegedly did not abide by the provisions of the law. There was even no coordination between the police and the local government, it claimed.
“If the police operation genuinely wanted to safely return the children to their parents, it could have been achieved through proper coordination not only with local authorities but also the Archdiocese of Cebu, which facilitated the sanctuary for the Lumad students,” the CRN said.
The PNP had said that its Talamban police force acted on the request of the parents of the Lumad children.
But CRN alleged that trauma faced by the children could have been avoided had the police followed standard protocols and did away with the operation that felt like a criminal crackdown.