Salinlahi lambasts PNP over violent raid of Lumad Bakwit School,
false branding of children as NPA child warriors

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns vehemently condemned the Police Regional Office 7 over the illegal and violent raid of the Lumad Bakwit School located at the University of San Carlos – Talamban Campus in Cebu City resulting to the arbitrary arrest and detention of 26 Lumad students, teachers and tribal leaders last February 15.

“We are enraged over the recent incident of raid perpetrated by heavily armed elements of Police Regional Office 7 against the distraught Lumad students and teachers who sought sanctuary in Cebu City after their schools were permanently shut down by the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2019. The photos and videos of the raid circulating online clearly show how the students screamed, cried and trembled in fear while being forcibly taken away by the police,” said Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns Secretary General Eule Rico Bonganay.

Bonganay lambasted the PNP for weaving fabricated stories against the Lumad Bakwit School and its volunteer teachers in an attempt to cover up the violations they have committed.

 “It has been a practice of the state forces to falsely label children victims of state-sanctioned violations as child warriors in order to cover up their abuses and escape from accountability. Such dirty tactic is now being demonstrated by the PNP Region 7. They have been desperately trying to paint a bad picture of the Lumad Bakwit School and its volunteer teachers by maliciously accusing them as kidnappers, traffickers and recruiters of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Bonganay added.

According to Bonganay, the Lumad Bakwit School serves as a sanctuary for the Lumad people who fled their communities in Mindanao after Duterte ordered it’s bombing while the DepEd paved the way for the permanent closure of the schools that they have collectively built. “The Lumad Bakwit School is a place where Lumad children learn, voice out their demands and inform the public about the situation of their communities in Mindanao. Certainly, there’s was no NPA recruitment inside the school and the students have not undergone any form of warfare training,” said Bonganay adding that the students have voluntarily joined the Lumad Bakwit School.

Bonganay also noted that the incident has undeniably caused fear and anxiety to the 26 individuals arrested and detained. “Even before the incident, most of them have been experiencing psychological distress as a result of the traumatic events they have gone through especially during the intense military operations in Mindanao. Hence, it is infuriating that no less than the DSWD and DepEd, that are supposedly tasked to uphold children’s rights, are actively taking part in the cruel and callous campaigns of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that victimize Lumad children,” Bonganay emphasized.

Salinlahi has urged the local and international child rights and human rights groups to condemn the recent attacks of the Duterte administration against the Lumad people and to demand the immediate release of the 26 individuals. As one of the petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law, the group has also called on the public to strongly express opposition against the measure as it will only worsen the human rights situation in the country. ###