DAVAO CITY – One of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) students rescued from the University of San Carlos (USC) campus in Cebu City on Feb. 15, 2021 disclosed that their parents were forced to sign, using thumbmarks, a waiver indicating that they allowed their children to study at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Center in Davao City.
“But the contract said otherwise,” said Larry Mandakawan, citing that the waiver was actually a consent for them to be transported to Cebu City.
In the recent National Task Force to End Local Communists Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) virtual press conference dubbed “TAGGED: Debunking lies by telling the truth”, he insisted that UCCP Haran administrators deceived their parents who were told that their children will be staying at UCCP Haran.
“Our parents signed the waiver. They did not even know the content of the document. They were only told that it is to signify that they allow us to stay in Haran to study,” he said in vernacular.
“Even us, we didn’t know that we will go to that place. We came to Haran to study because that’s what they promised to us. But despite that, we still thought that we were brought to Cebu to study,” Mandakawan added.
Before the rescue
Mandakawan was once a student of Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. in Talaingod, Davao del Norte but when the Department of Education in Region 11 ordered the closure of the “bakwit” (evacuee) school in October 2019, he went to Haran to continue his education.
“When the Salugpungan was shut down, we looked for a school where we can continue our studies. And we thought that the right place was in Haran,” Mandakawan recounted.
He said they stayed for one week in Haran and were told that they will be transferred to Cebu where a “bakwit” school awaited them.
“When we reached Cebu, two vans are waiting for us. One was for the girls and the other one for us,” he recalled.
Mandakawan said they were brought to a rally before they were transferred to Minglanilla.
“As far as I remember, we joined the rally three times there. After the rally, we went home and we did not have anything to eat. Sometimes we eat salt as viand. There were a lot of mosquitos in our room and it was also stinky,” he said.
Mandakawan said they did not mind the struggle for they were promised education.
After Minglanilla, he said they were brought to St. Escolastica where they stayed for 11 days and again joined a rally.
“Then we were transferred to the USC campus where we were rescued,” he further said.
Root of misery
Mandakawan’s father, Datu Butigon, said in a press briefing in Tagum City, Davao del Norte on May 18, that his wife, Samana, was severely stressed after learning their son has been brought to Cebu and eventually died.
He wants justice not only for his child but also for his wife.
“She was worried a lot and the loneliness caused her death,” he said.
He appealed to the national government to help children and their families attain justice.
“Help us to fight against them. They need to face trial for kidnapping and abducting our children,” he said in the vernacular.
Datu Butigon also wants charges filed against the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who are “victimizing” their children.
Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on Legal Affairs and IP concerns, previously said the abductors committed child abuse, illegal detention, and trafficking.
“The state mandates that the custody of the children will always be with their parents. What is Chad Booc’s right over these minors? Right there and then, the parents denied them custody,” Bosantog pointed out, referring to one of the abductors.
“Until now, they can’t show that consent was given. You cannot bring one person to another place without parental consent,” he added.
He added that the government has also filed cases for violations of International Humanitarian Law for turning IP minors into child warriors.
The European Union, through Council Decision 2011/70/CFSP dated January 11, 2011, designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA as a terrorist organization.
The CPP-NPA is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)