Karapatan raises alarm on alleged “rescue” of Lumad students in Cebu bakwit school

Human rights watchdog Karapatan raised alarm on the so-called police “rescue operation” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office 7 and the Department of Social Welfare and Development at the bakwit school of Lumad students in the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City earlier today.

“What kind of rescue operation involved force and coercion by uniformed elements like the PNP, knowing that these students were victims of forced evacuation amid military and paramilitary operations in their indigenous people’s community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte? The Lumad students were obviously in distress as they were forced out of the Lumad school in Cebu, despite and even with the presence of their parents,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Numerous videos on Facebook were posted showing how uniformed policemen gathered the Lumad children, among others. With the police were members of the media and six individuals who were said to be parents of some of the Lumad children. Some videos, apart from those taken by local media, showed that the Lumad children were screaming and crying, obviously showing fear with the presence of the police elements.

Reports from the Save Our Schools Network said that 20 students were taken away, while two datu or Lumad elders and two teachers were violently apprehended and arrested in the operation. The “rescue operation” was allegedly not coordinated in any way with the local government, the barangay or proper authorities.

“The Lumad students and the rest of those taken from the Lumad school are civilians, and are not in any way armed or dangerous. There is apparent use of violence on the students, and how police elements have carried out this so-called ‘rescue’ should be looked into. We are deeply concerned on the condition of the Lumad students, especially they who have become victims time and again by State forces,” Palabay ended.