Cebu News

Sinas defends lumad “rescue”

Iris Hazel M. Mascardo - The Freeman
Sinas defends lumad �rescue�
Sinas said they are willing to face the CHR in court should there be charges to be filed against the police.

CEBU, Philippines —  Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Debold Sinas defended the police operation at a retreat house inside a university campus in Cebu City, where lumad children participating in bakwit school from Mindanao were temporarily sheltered, amid criticisms and investigations initiated by some sectors including the Commission on Human Rights.

Sinas said they are willing to face the CHR in court should there be charges to be filed against the police.

The country’s top cop reiterated that the police merely provided assistance to the six lumad parents and the social workers from Mindanao who claimed that their children were brought to Cebu through the Save Our School (SOS) Network without them knowing.

"The PNP is here to assist the family and to file a case. We are basing on facts," Sinas said.

CHR-7 chief investigator Leo Villarino earlier said they have already submitted a report to their head office on their initial investigation into the police operation last Monday.

Villarino said their investigation will focus on the possible human rights violations committed during the police operation. Among the areas CHR is investigating are the lumads' right to counsel, possible violation of their constitutional rights, and whether or not intimidation was employed on the children.

The controversial police operation resulted in the arrest of seven individuals and the rescue of 19 lumad children.  Sinas said the “rescued” minors are temporarily billeted in a hotel and currently undergoing stress debriefing with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"Nandyan sila, nag-stay sila sa isang local hotel natin, they are undergoing stress debriefing by the DSWD  of Cebu City, Davao, at kasama na dyan ang nga social workers to assess the children and the parents," Sinas told reporters.

The police also toured the lumad children to the different tourist spots in the city as part of their debriefing.

 “As part of their stress debriefing ipapasyal sila dito sa mga spots ng Cebu City,” Sinas said.

On the other hand, the seven suspects arrested during the operation at the SVD retreat house inside the University of San Carlos (USC) Talamban Campus will remain in Cebu City despite the filing of the criminal complaint for kidnapping and serious illegal detention in Davao del Norte. Sinas said the respondents -- Chad Booc, 27; Jomar Binag, 27; Moddie Mansumoy-at, 20; Benito Bay-ao, 53; Segundo Melong; Esmilito Oribawan; and Roshelle Mae Porcadilla, 21—will attend the hearings via zoom.

All seven have signed a waiver of detention to avail of a preliminary investigation by the prosecutor’s office to determine probable cause to hold them for trial in court.

 Sinas has also directed PRO-7 director Brigadier General Ronnie Montejo to look into the possible liability of USC for hosting the suspects. A separate investigation will be conducted by the police against the university.

"I have already tasked the regional director to coordinate with the DepEd (Department of Education) if some policies were (violated)," said Sinas.

Cebu City probe

Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has also instructed the City Legal Office conduct its own inquiry into the controversial police operation against the lumads.

Labella said the office headed by City Legal Officer Rey Gealon will look into the matter and see if there are indeed violations of children’s rights committed during the so-called rescue operation.

“Akong imbestigaron og unsa gyu’y puno’t dulo kay alegasyon man gud na. Mao na’ng kinahanglan atong imbestigahon, atong paminawon ang side sad sa mga gisulti nga wa subaya ang mga lagda mahitungod sa pagtan-aw sa mga kaayohan sa mga kabataan,” said Labella yesterday.

Labella said it is important to really investigate the incident as it involves minors.

Labella also directed the Department of Social Welfare Services to guard the children and look after their welfare.

“As far as I know, naa gyud sila karon sa police, pero naa sa police pero reunited na sa ilang mga ginikanan,” said Labella.

The mayor said he will make the proper intervention and instructed the DSWS to ensure that the children are turned over to the DSWD as the agency has the facility for the protection of children.

Anne Suico of DSWS said 13 of the 19 minors are expected to return to Mindanao Friday evening, while six are yet to go home because they are still waiting for their parents. — Mary Ruth R. Malinao, FPL  (FREEMAN)

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