MANILA – Four parents belonging to the Ata Manobo tribe are being held by suspected communist rebels, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, said.
The parents were among the eight Ata Manobo parents who were supposed to meet up with the police in Sitio Kamingawan, Talaingod, Davao del Norte on Monday for their trip to Cebu City, Sinas said in a news release issued late Tuesday.
However, only two parents showed up, he said, citing reports from Police Regional Office 11 (Davao region).
Sinas said they later learned that four parents were taken on Sunday by suspected organizers of communist front groups who introduced themselves as police officers.
He said the four were later monitored applying for travel authority at the airport and undergoing a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test at the New World Diagnostic Center.
“Obviously, these four parents were lured into believing they would be meeting with their children in Cebu when they were taken by persons who disguised themselves as police officers. I can only surmise that this is part of desperate moves by the communist front organizations to get away from the criminal liability of serious illegal detention and child exploitation,” Sinas said.
Police and social welfare authorities in Davao are locating the parents of the children rescued from the University of San Carlos Retreat House in Balamban, Cebu City to obtain their sworn statements.
“These Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) parents need to go to Cebu because their rescued minor children will only be released to them, and will only be allowed to travel back to Davao accompanied by their parents or guardians. However, the Lumad children are back in Davao now and there is no way the parents would be able to meet them in Cebu,” he added.
Six parents earlier traveled to Cebu City to accompany their rescued children back to Davao.
Of the 13 Manobo children rescued in Cebu City, only six were able to return to Davao on Sunday accompanied by their parents after the Children’s Legal Bureau canceled the travel of the other seven because they were not accompanied by their parents.
However, social workers from Cebu and Davao, with the tribal leaders, worked together to bring the children to Davao where they could supposedly meet their parents.
The children were among the 19 minors from different parts of Mindanao who were brought to Cebu City by members of the now-defunct Salugpongan school, purportedly to undergo alternative learning, but authorities said the children were undergoing some form of radicalization and revolutionary warfare indoctrination.
The rescue resulted in the arrest of seven suspects who are now facing charges for violations of kidnapping with serious illegal detention and trafficking in persons.
Sinas said the investigation showed that the minors were brought to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Center in Davao City in 2018 by a Salugpongan teacher only known as “Michelle”.
They were then transferred to Cebu City without the knowledge and consent of the parents.
Last January 29, an investigation team met three of the parents, Editha Olayan, May-May Anlomon, and Melion Moya, and one guardian, Agustina Ilayao.
The team found out that the Salugpongan teacher asked permission from them to transport their children only to UCCP Haran to continue their studies on the condition that their children can visit them every month.
The promise did not happen because the minors were brought to Cebu City, Sinas said. (PR)