KARAPATAN calls for dismissal of fabricated child abuse cases vs Ocampo, Castro, Talaingod 18

KARAPATAN stands firmly in solidarity with the 18 members of a humanitarian mission conducted in 2018 who have been unjustly charged with acts of child abuse.

Collectively known as the Talaingod 18, the members of the humanitarian mission participated in by former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro, and four ecumenical leaders from the United Church of Christ in the Philippine and the United Methodist Church were responding to calls from teachers and students of the Salugongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. and the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM), both Lumad schools in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Students, teachers and staff of these schools had been suffering intense harassment in the hands of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the Alamara paramilitary group, encouraged by hostile pronouncements from then Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who publicly called for the bombing of the places of learning, branding them as “NPA schools.”

The harassment had stepped up in October 2018 when the Alamara began blocking the supply of food and school supplies, which culminated in the padlocking of the schools on November 28. The teachers, students and staff who hail from far-flung areas and live in dormitories provided by the schools had nowhere to go and were in constant danger from the Alamara. They made urgent calls for rescue, which the humanitarian mission responded to. The group had to rescue the Lumad students, teachers and staff and bring them to safety.

Ironically, in the military’s twisted logic, this humanitarian act constituted “child abuse.”

The Duterte regime had the gall to charge the Talaingod 18 with acts of child abuse when it was the regime that had, in fact, gained notoriety for its constant attacks on the rights of Lumad children. At the time the Talaingod schools were forcibly shut down, Save Our Schools Network had already documented at least 535 cases of attacks on Lumad schools, including military encampments in schools, torture, threats and harassment, denial of humanitarian aid, illegal arrests, red-tagging, forced surrenders and destruction or focible closures of schools. The vast majority of the attacks on Lumad schools occurred when martial law was declared in Mindanao.

This wave of terror led to the closure of 56 Lumad schools all over the island, depriving over 2,000 Lumad students of their right to education. Lumad schools in Sarangani province were also affected by the aerial bombings of their communities, traumatizing over 60 students and a dozen volunteer teachers.

Under the Marcos Jr. regime, Lumad children continue to be deprived of these schools that taught them to defend and cherish their land and culture. Marcos Jr. faithfully implements the same militarist and anti-people policies that have had devastating consequences on the Lumad children’s rights and welfare.

It is the Duterte and Marcos Jr. regimes that are guilty of child abuse and child endangerment.

The dismissal of the trumped-up child abuse cases against the Talaingod 18 is the only just recourse. Karapatan moreover calls for a stop to the attacks on Lumad communities and demands the abolition of all state policies and entities that engender the violation of the Lumad people’s rights. #

Link to the press conference livestream this morning, July 10.