CEBU CITY – Days after they were rescued from the retreat house of a university here, 13 Lumad children were flown back to their hometown in Davao del Norte last Sunday night.
The children departed from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 6:30 p.m. via a Cebu Pacific flight and arrived at Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City at 7:15 p.m., said Police Col. Robert Limbawan, chief of the Intelligence Division of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).
The children were accompanied in the trip by personnel of Women and Children Protection Center-Visayas Field Office and social workers from the Talaingod Municipal Social Welfare Office, said Limbawan.
The Save Our Schools Network (SOSN)-Cebu and the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) tried to stop the children’s travel back to Davao.
Lawyer King Anthony Perez, communications and advocacy officer of CLB, said authorities failed to secure permission from the parents of the seven children.
“The seven Lumad students whose parents sought the assistance of Children’s Legal Bureau were transported without consent from their parents and proper coordination by authorities,” said Perez in a statement.
“We will also consult with our clients on possible legal actions to be taken after this incident. CLB is closely monitoring the movement of the students involved. The organization will also investigate this matter after authorities failed to follow established protocols,” Perez added.
The PRO 7 denied that the trip was not permitted by the parents.
Limbawan said the parents themselves were at the airport to meet the children.
“They even had tarpaulins welcoming the children,” said Limbawan.
The children who were brought back to Davao were part of the 19 indigenous people who were removed from the retreat house of the University of San Carlos in Talamban (USC-TC) last Feb. 15.
Police said the children had been staying at the retreat house since 2019 and were allegedly used for militant and leftist activities.
During the police operation, seven persons were arrested and later charged for kidnapping and illegal detention.
The SOSN-Cebu and priests from the Society of the Divine Word Philippines (SVD-Philippines) said there were nothing irregular with the children’s presence at the retreat house since it was part of the “bakwit school” program for displaced Lumads.