Rep. Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis party-list), Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list), Rep. France Castro (ACT-Teachers party-list) and Bayan Muna party-list President Satur Ocampo raise their hand during the press conference after their arrival in Manila on Dec. 2, 2018.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Duterte backs police in arrest of 'Talaingod 18'
Alexis Romero ( - December 3, 2018 - 9:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — Law enforcers were right to arrest the group of former Rep. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna party-list) and Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list, have been charged for allegedly illegally transporting 14 minors in Davao del Norte, President Rofrigo Duterte said. 

Duterte said Monday that children cannot be removed from their communities without the consent of their parents. 

"That is actually kidnapping. The victims are complaining. You heard they were lectured upon by the Lumads. And it's like controlling the lives of the natives. That's the problem with communists. They use the Lumads. Most of the fatalities are Lumads," the president said in a chance interview in Malacañang. 

"There is the intent which is criminal in bringing out and transferring children from one area to another...eventually using them in their struggle. 'Yan lang man ang komunista. Bakit pa tayo magbobolahan (Why should we fool each other)?" he added. 

The president did not elaborate but the Armed Forces of the Philippines said last December that "of every four armed members of the NPA, three are Lumads." Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson at the time, said that it is easier for the NPA, the bulk of which operate in eastern Mindanao, to recruit Lumads because they are "easier to fool."
The AFP also fields Lumad soldiers, however. State-run Philippine News Agency reported last December that around 300 recruits from indigineous peoples' communities had completed basic training and would join "Sundalo ng Mamamayan, Armado laban sa Terorismo at kriminalidad (SMART)" companies under the 10th Infantry Division.

Rival claims for ancestral domain and of who the legitimate representative of an IP group is a source of tension in Lumad communities. 

Government to protect police vs counter charges

The president also vowed to protect the police from the counter charges to be filed by Ocampo's group. 

"I will defend my soldiers and my policemen for sure because I think that they are right...The elements are simple, that a minor is shanghaied, brought out without the consent of the parents and placing him in danger," he said. 

Earlier Monday, Ocampo's lawyer said the charges against her client and the 17 others "are so ludicrous, there is no way these will survive reasonable judicial or public scrutiny."

“[They] had no intention to abuse, kidnap, or, more thoughtlessly, traffic the children. They had, in fact, responded to the ‘cry of the needy,’ the call of the Salugpongan schools for rescue in the midst of forcible closure and embargo by the army and allied paramilitary,” lawyer Rachel Pastores said.

On Sunday, Rep. Karlo Zarate (Bayan Muna) said in a press conference that Ocampo and Castro did not have time to seek permission because of the "emergency situation" caused by the harassment of the schools.

'Communist fronts'

 Duterte again accused Bayan Muna and Gabriela party-lists of being fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

"Huwag na tayo magbobolahan dito (Let us not fool each other). They are all communists and the disparity of the Philippines leading to a war and eventually you can connect them with the conspiracy to topple down government," he added. 

Support for and membership in activist groups do not necessarily mean membership in or support of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Membership in the CPP meanwhile does not necessarily mean membership in its armed wing, the New People's Army.

RELATED: Albayalde dared to visit Lumad schools to check 'communist' lessons

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