MANILA – Authorities are set to transport 13 Lumad students back to Talaingod, Davao del Norte in Mindanao today, Feb. 21, even as seven of them are being transferred “without proper legal authority.”
The 13 Lumads are among the 19 students who were taken in custody by police and social welfare authorities who swooped down on the Lumad bakwet school in the University of San Carlos-Talamban campus on Feb. 15, claiming it was a “rescue operation.”
The Save Our Schools Network (SOS) Cebu insisted that only six of the 13 students had parents who were claiming them, but the rest were being claimed by “supposed guardians” who have not provided proper authorization to their claims.
“Without any court order or signed written consent from the parent, DSWD and other agencies have no right to move the children, especially given their explicit cooperation and support in the harassment that the Philippine National Police has done to these minors,” SOS Cebu said in a Facebook post in response to a statement by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Six other Lumad students were to remain in Cebu under DSWD custody.
Seven others were detained and charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention, including three adult students, two volunteer teachers and two Lumad datus (chieftains).
On Feb. 15, video clips of the raid on the bakwet school showed Lumad students screaming as police men grabbed and handcuffed a student and a volunteer teacher. Several Lumad minors were in tears as they were being led out of the Cebu retreat house.
SOS Cebu has asserted last week that the parents of all the Lumad minors gave consent and provided authorization allowing their children to join the Cebu bakwit school.
UPDATE: (As of 7:04 PM) All 13 Lumad minors have been flown out of Cebu by authorities.
This in spite of intervention from the Cebu-based group Children’s Legal Bureau Inc. (CLB) representing the parents of the seven minors.
SOS Cebu denounced the police, the Talaingod local government and the Local Social Welfare and Development Office of Talaingod for what it called “illegal transport of minors.”
In an earlier statement, the CLB said it “has been instructed by the parents of the students concerned to bar any efforts from the authorities to transport their children after it was found that no coordination was made to the parents by the police and social workers.”
The private group provides legal aid to children and paralegal training, and works for the protection of children’s rights.
“Being vanguards of child rights and welfare, we are taking this concern with utmost prudence and making it a top priority until the children will be turned over to proper individuals,” the CLB statement said.
Erratum: This story’s first headline was “7 of 13 Lumad minors being sent back to Mindanao ‘without legal authority.'”