Hontiveros hits 'disturbing pattern' on schools' treatment after Cebu police raid

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Hontiveros hits 'disturbing pattern' on schools' treatment after Cebu police raid
This photo shows personnel of Police Regional Office-7 swarming students of a Lumad school in Cebu at what they claim is a "rescue operation."
The Freeman / Romeo Marantal and Iris Mascardo

MANILA, Philippines — A senator on Tuesday flagged what she described as a "disturbing pattern" of authorities' treatment on schools after Monday's incident of police claiming "rescue" of children in a Lumad bakwit school in Cebu.

Cops and social welfare staff forcibly took some 19 children which they said were being indoctrinated to join the communist movement at the University of San Carlos in Talamban.

The incident, which was caught on video, has since been condemned by groups who denounced the arrest of the Lumads.

Over ANC's "Headstart," Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for a probe by the human rights commission over the raid and agreed that it was not a first which involved students or schools.

"It's a tone that's getting louder and it seems to be getting even more aggressive or violent," she said. "It may be part of a disgusting pattern that is emerging in our society."

Over the course of the pandemic, there had been instances of authorities clashing with students.

This includes the arrest of seven individuals who were at an anti-terror bill protest in University of the Philippines in Cebu, as well as the abrogration of UP's 1989 accord with the defense department.

"Kaya kailangan hindi tayo mapagod na ulit-ulitin 'yung usapan ng human rights, civil liberties including academic freedom," Hontiveros said. "Hear all the voices that are speaking up before it's too late."

(We should never grow tired of repeating conversations on human rights, civil liberties and academic freedom.)

Lawyer Jacqueline de Guia, a spokesperson for the CHR, said they have sent a team too to look at the incident. It has, however, yet to take a position "given the different claims" on it, with their interest "to pin down the truth and look forward to the cooperation of all parties."

Earlier Tuesday, an officer of Cebu's social welfare services disputed the police's claim that the operation was a rescue.

The children were only being taught to read and write at the retreat house inside USC and nothing more, contrary to what cops alleged, said Annie Suico to Philstar.com.

"[They] never said that to us. Nothing about training to be child warriors," she said. "We interviewed all of the children. They said nothing about being indoctrinated."

Further disproving the police's takewas the Catholic religious order Society of the Divine Word, who said the Lumads need not be rescued as they were set to return to their respective provinces anyway. — with reports from Franco Luna

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