Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Front-liners, troops must get Covid-19 vax first: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18,2021): Front-liners, troops must get Covid-19 vax first: AFP chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP chief, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana. (File photo)

The country's military chief said he is giving way for other sectors, especially front-liners, to get inoculated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines first before he himself gets vaccinated.

"Well much as I wanted to get the vaccination first but (you) have to understand that there are other sectors that direly need more than me, so it is right that the 25 percent of our troops come first, then our front-liners," said Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana in an interview with One News' The Chiefs Wednesday night.

Sobejana was referring to the 25 percent of the AFP troops who will be vaccinated once the first doses of the vaccines arrive in the country.

These troops are tasked to conduct security operations to protect the areas for vaccinations.

Also included are those involved in the delivery and transportation of these vaccines to the cold storage and vaccinations areas and those assigned to medical support operations.

"At ako naman hindi kasama dun sa (I am not among) front-liners, I am just providing directions and guidance so maaring mahuli na ako, hintayin ko na lang yung (I can be at the end of the line, I will just wait). In due time I will get my share," Sobejana said.

IP leaders laud gov’t efforts to rescue young IPs in Cebu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18,2021): IP leaders laud gov’t efforts to rescue young IPs in Cebu (By Christine Cudis)

Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (File photo)

Indigenous peoples (IPs) groups from Mindanao have thanked the police and local government in Cebu for rescuing young IPs from the communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

“Government should and need to act to save these young indigenous people as advocates of citizen rights or Human Rights duty bearer,” Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL) and the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Youth Organization (MIPYO) said in a joint statement released on Feb. 16.

The groups cited the IPs right to proper education that is approved by the Department of Education (DepEd) and will accelerate the IPs knowledge as well as secure them with a degree.

They said the target of the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, the group that brought the IP youths from Davao del Norte to Cebu City, is to fight not only the present government but also the past administrations.

The SOS Network also wants to abolish Indigenous People's Rights law, the groups added.

“The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) were the first to build the so-called Lumad schools in Barangay Lydia in La Paz and Barangay Balit in San Luis in Agusan del Sur and their first program is Literacy and Numerology (LitNum) only and not the whole curriculum of Education according to DepEd regulations so they should apply for DepEd registration so that they will be recognized as a full school,” the statement said.

The groups also said the SOS Network is the one that helped spread “this kind of schools that we know as native schools like Salugpongan Ta Tano Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTCLC) and Community Training and Resource Center (CTRC) in Region 11, CLANS and Fr. Pops Tentorio Institute in Region 12, MISFI in Region 10 with some schools in Region 12 and 11, TRIPFSS and ALCADEV in Region 13 and AIFSI in Region 11 with also a School in Region 9”.

They said these schools were founded by the organizations that are members of KALUMARAN such as PASAKA, KALUMBAY, ALUHHAMIN and SGS which are also supported by the SOS Network.

These schools are transforming students to become members of the New People’s Army (NPA), an armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The IP leaders urged community leaders to look into the activities and system performed by these “supposed educational institutions.”

“These schools are taking students to rallies, campers and the City because they caused the planting of hate and wrong thoughts to fight the government that usually caused them to be put in the situation of violence and became bakwit like bakwit school in UP, bakwit school in Haran in Davao and now bakwit school in Cebu. Situation that pushed them to become victims of NPA recruitment and use them as Child Warriors,” the statement said.

The IP leaders said a member of their tribe Datu Guibang Apuga said that his son Awing became a member of the New People's Army at the age of 12 along with the other young IPs in Talaingod, Davao del Norte who entered Salugpongan schools.

“So he is now leading the call for indigenous leaders to close Salugpongan schools there,” they said.

The groups also said these schools are collecting aid and funds from other countries.

“This is what everyone should know so that we can see carefully why we are thankful for the safety of our indigenous youth in Cebu by their parents with the help of the government,” they added.

In a television interview on Wednesday, SOS volunteer teacher Rose Hayahay maintained that they were not holding the IP students hostage.

Rescue ops

On Monday, Central Visayas police rescued 19 young IPs at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Talamban, Cebu.

Police Regional director Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo said they are preparing human trafficking, child abuse, and kidnapping cases against Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) or the Society of the Divine Word, the congregation that supervises the USC.

Montejo said investigation results showed that the IPs, mostly minors, were supposed to be brought only to Davao City in 2018.

Parents, he said, were worried since their children have not returned home since then.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Region 7 is conducting a "motu proprio inquiry" or probe on the rescue of the IP minors.

CHR 7 director Arvin Odron said the probe shall determine whether rights were violated or were put at risk of being violated so that they can intervene and protect the same or prevent it from recurring.

"As we deal here with children whose rights are prone or vulnerable to abuse, we want to ensure that all stakeholders act ‘for the best interest’ of our children," Odron said.

7 charged after cops rescue IP minors in Cebu school

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18,2021): 7 charged after cops rescue IP minors in Cebu school (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

Police officers filed several charges against seven persons following the rescue of 19 indigenous people (IP) minors in Cebu City earlier this week.

In a statement on Thursday, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas said the respondents -- two datus (chieftain), two teachers, and three adult IP students -- underwent inquest proceedings on Wednesday via teleconference from the Police Regional Office - 7 (Central Visayas) in Cebu City before the Davao del Norte Provincial Prosecutor's Office on charges of kidnapping, child exploitation and human trafficking.

Lawyer Grazielynne Corpuz, duty inquest prosecutor, received the information sheet on the cases under NPS docket Nr XI-03-INQ-21B-00076.

Corpuz gave the respondents 15 days to submit their counter-affidavit, after they manifested through a counsel from the National Union of People's Lawyers to avail of preliminary investigation.

The case stemmed from the complaints by six Ata Manobo parents of the minors inside the University of San Carlos (USC) in Talamban, Cebu City who were rescued by local police on Monday.

Groups ignorant for claiming rescue of IP kids in Cebu fake

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18,2021): Groups ignorant for claiming rescue of IP kids in Cebu fake (By Marita Moaje)

RESCUED. Some 19 minors belonging to the indigenous peoples (IP) communities reunite with their parents after social workers rescued them from the retreat house of the University of San Carlos-Talamban campus on Feb. 15. The IP children were reportedly taken away from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, and Sultan Kudarat in 2018. (Contributed photo)

The Regional Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Western Visayas said that individuals and groups that claim that the rescue operation of indigenous peoples (IP) minors in Cebu are ignorant of the facts and the true issue at hand.

RTF6-ELCAC, in a statement on Feb. 17, said they are the critics are ignorant of the laws on child protection, and the country’s expanded anti-human trafficking laws.

“(They are) ignorant of the parents' plight, suffering, and emotional distress when their children were taken from their custody and wherein their children were transported to Cebu City without their express or implied consent by persons who are not even authorized to transport these children,” RTF6-ELCAC.

The primary goal of the Feb. 15 rescue operation, the statement said, is to reunite the IP children with their parents.

The press statements issued by various groups criticizing the anti-human trafficking rescue operations failed to mention that the minor’s parents were present during the operation and were the complainants and the aggrieved parties in the case.

“Be reminded that being a member of an NGO or an organization, however cute or charitable the name of the organization is, does not and will not vest upon any person the authority to replace the parental authority of the biological parents of a child,” said lawyer Flosemer Chris Gonzales, chairperson of the Legal Cooperation Cluster 6.

Gonzales said the University of San Carlos – Talamban campus, the collaborating institution where the rescue operation took place, should have checked and verified whether the minor “delegates” were truly allowed by their parents to join the “delegation”.

He said “assuming” that they have their parents' consent is irresponsible thus, the institution should explain the presence of the trafficked children on their premises.

Let the parents speak

He also advised those who are saying that the rescued IP children were saved from the conflict in Mindanao to speak first with the children’s parents.

To recall, about 19 IP children from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, and Sultan Kudarat were rescued by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development and Philippine National Police (PNP) Region 7 on Monday inside the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

PNP-Region 7 chief, Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, said the operation was launched after parents of six IP children sought help.

Some left-leaning groups including Karapatan condemned the operation saying that it was a “forced” rescue causing stress on the children.

He said minor children cannot just leave their homes and decide on their own to go with a group if their parents do not allow them.

Children should always ask for their parents' consent, otherwise, they should stay at home.

Gonzales said that they will eventually let the IP children speak after they undergo the necessary psycho-social intervention to assess how their absence from their families for a long time has affected their thinking and frame of mind.

IP minors turned into NPA child warriors

RTF6-ELCAC said the real cause of the problem is the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

It added that had there been no communist terrorist groups (CTGs) in the region, Mindanao would have been a haven for the IPs and the other residents.

Gonzales said that it is true that IPs are victims of oppression and injustice because their children are forcibly taken away from them by the CPP-NPA and turned into child warriors.

“This is a real injustice. This is real oppression,” RTF6-ELCAC said, adding that they cannot allow CTGs to use the children against their families, and the government.

Non-government organizations, including the legal fronts of the CPP-NPA have no right to interfere in the affairs of the IP families, Gonzales added.

They challenged the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), and all the other organizations questioning the operation to know what a rescue operation is in the context of the enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws.

“Condemn the CPP-NPA and their pseudo-legal fronts for the atrocities that they have committed against the IPs of Mindanao. Condemn the CPP-NPA's recruitment of Lumad children as child warriors,” Gonzales said.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.