Raps vs 7 nabbed in raid on Cebu Lumad Bakwit school dismissed
Photo shows six detainees behind bars at the Police Regional Office-7 whom police arrested at a Lumad school in Cebu during what they claim is a "rescue operation."
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Raps vs 7 nabbed in raid on Cebu Lumad Bakwit school dismissed

(Philstar.com) - May 14, 2021 - 8:50am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 11:36 a.m.) — The provincial prosecutor of Davao del Norte has dismissed kidnapping and other complaints against seven people who were arrested in a raid on a Lumad Bakwit school in Cebu City in February, the local chapter of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers said Friday.

NUPL-Cebu, which represents six of the seven respondents, said the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor dismissed the complaints against Chad Errol Booc, Segundo Lagatos Melong, Benito Dalim Bay-ao, Moddie Langayed Mansimoy-at, Esmelito Paumba Oribawan, Roshelle Mae Porcadilla and Jomar Benag for lack of jurisdiction as well as for insufficiency of evidence and lack of probable cause. 

The prosecutor's office also ordered their release.

"As there are no pending cases against the respondents, it is imperative for police officers assigned to the detained respondents who were separated in different police stations within Cebu City to cause their immediate release after the issuance of this Resolution," NUPL-Cebu said.

NUPL-Cebu said the dismissal of the complaints shows that attempts by the police and military to link the indigenous peoples' education schools to communist rebels "are baseless and unfounded."

READ: 'Lumad school volunteer moved from detention without knowledge of counsel, family'

Outside jurisdiction

In junking the complaint filed by police, the prosecution said complainants were unable to identify who took the minors from Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Affidavits from the parents only said their children were taken away by unspecified teachers of the Salugpungan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center in Davao del Norte.

The prosecutor's office also said that no witness could name any of the alleged perpetrators who transported the minors out of Davao del Norte.

While the prosecution said it can be argued that the rescued individuals were deprived of liberty when they were barred from leaving the retreat house or communicate with their parents, these events would have happened in Cebu City, which is outside their office’s jurisdiction.

“As it stands, it is impossible to connect any of the arrested respondents to the alleged offense of kidnapping. Equally unsupported is the allegation that such deprivation of liberty started at Talaingod, Davao del Norte,” the resolution said.

The prosecution also noted the same on the allegation of kidnapping and serious illegal detention that originated in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Incidents to support complaint of child abuse, by way of “brain-washing” and “exposure to communist ideologies,” also allegedly happened din Cebu City, which is a separate jurisdiction.

While one witness said the exposure and indoctrination of the children to communist ideologies started in Talaingod, “he did not name any of the arrested respondents as the ones who educated the children in this manner, time and place,” the prosecution said.

“Even when there are indications of acts committed by the said respondents that would fit the elements of the above-mentioned crimes, these acts either happened at Davao City or at Cebu City, outside the territorial jurisdiction of this office,” it added.

'Rescue operation'

The seven were among 21 who were taken away by police in a raid on a retreat house of the University of San Carlos in Cebu on February 15 that authorities called a rescue operation.

The university administration said the students and staff of the Lumad Bakwit school were guests and "no rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the Lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for, and treated with their best interest in mind."

The Philippine National Police claimed the Lumad students were being trained to become "child warriors." Social workers who interviewed the children after the raid said the students did not mention any "indoctrination" and said they were only taught to read and write.

READ: 'Rescued' Lumad children said they were taught reading and writing, not 'warfare training' — Cebu DSWS

"The raid of the Bakwit School in USC Talamban Campus was intended to instill fear and thwart resistance by the Filipinos who have grown frustrated and restless with the administration’s anti-poor and anti-people policies," NUPL-Cebu said Friday.

The government has closed down dozens of Lumad schools, saying they do not have permits to operate. Officials have also repeatedly said that the schools are used to recruit communist rebels, an allegation that the schools and their NGO donors said are baseless— Jonathan de Santos

RELATED: For Lumad schools, even holding class is a struggle

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