MANILA, Philippines — A child rights group said it is concerned over a decision by local government authorities to fly Lumad students to Davao City from Cebu, saying some of the children's parents didn't know about the move.
The alternative media network Altermidya reported over the weekend that 13 Lumad children were flown to Davao City to be later brought to Talaingod in Davao del Norte, a decision that Talaingod officials apparently made on their own.
In a letter to Police Regional Office-7's Women and Children Protection Center, the Children's Legal Bureau said the parents of "at least seven" of the Lumad children were "concerned because nobody has coordinated with them" about transporting their children.
In a Facebook post that included the letter to PRO-7, CLB said that it "has been engaged by the parents and relatives of at least [seven] Lumad students after it was found that no consent was given for their travel."
LOOK: Here's the letter sent to the Women and Children's Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) on Sunday,...Posted by Children's Legal Bureau, Inc. on Monday, 22 February 2021
CLB said in its letter that the parents "never authorized the social worker Lorena Banggoy nor any other person from the LGU of Talaingod to get custody over their children."
The group said the parents wanted to fetch their children from Cebu themselves and asked that their transport be put on hold.
"We believe that as the parents, they have the right to the custody over their children and not the social welfare of the Talaingod," the group added.
In updates posted on Facebook, the CLB said the transport had apparently pushed through, with the Cebu to Davao flight confirmed by commercial airline representatives.
A report by The Freeman said the move was through an agreement by the local social welfare office of Cebu City, as well as the province's regional police and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
But Leo Villarino, chief investigator of the Commission on Human Rights in the region, said the commission's investigation into the police raid on the Talamban campus of University of San Carlos would push through. CHR officials in Davao will also monitor the children's situation.
Members of the House of Representatives have called for hearings on the Cebu police's operation last week.
Authorities alleged that the children were being indoctrinated to become communist rebels, a claim that is in contrast to statements from social welfare officers and the children themselves, who said that did not happen.
Even the university administration had said that the children were in no need of rescuing as they were on their way home anyway. Despite that, seven people arrested in the raid now face complaints of kidnapping, child exploitation and human trafficking against seven people who were arrested.