Arroyo: France Castro, Satur Ocampo ‘entitled to respectful treatment’
MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said lawmakers, like Alliance of Concerned Teachers Representative France Castro and ex-Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo, deserve “dignified and respectful treatment” when facing charges.
The former president-turned-Pampanga 2nd district congresswoman made the statement on Monday, December 3, days after Castro, Ocampo, and 16 others were detained in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, for alleged human trafficking, kidnapping, and child abuse charges. They have posted bail.
“My position regarding Representative Castro is that the House is a body of elected representatives of the people, and that all its members, such as Rep. France Castro, are entitled to a certain level of dignified and respectful treatment in situations such as this, particularly since our judicial system is based upon the principle of presumption of innocence,” said Arroyo.
“This is my position regarding any member of the House, regardless of political or ideological alignment,” she added.
Arroyo then called for the “speedy resolution” of the matter, now that Ocampo, Castro, and their companions have been given 10 days to file their counter affidavits.
“I have long known former Rep. Satur Ocampo personally, and I pray that he, Rep. Castro, and their co-respondents are well and will continue to be so until this matter is resolved,” said Arroyo.
Castro and Ocampo joined a humanitarian mission in Talaingod to help save Lumad students and teachers from Salugpong Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Incorporated in Sitio Dulya, Barangay Palma. They said state forces had allegedly staged a flood blockade against the school.
On November 28, Ocampo, Castro, and 16 others were arrested at a checkpoint in Talaingod town after 14 minors were found in their convoy. Police filed a complaint against the group, citing the absence of parental consent for them to bring the minors, aged 14 to 17, out of Talaingod.
Prior to the arrests, unidentified perpetrators allegedly threw nail spikes on the road to deflate the wheels of two out of the 5 vans used by Castro’s group. As the wheels were being replaced, broken glass shards were thrown at one van, while the vehicle of Castro and Ocampo were hit by stones.
Call for House probe
In a privilege speech on Monday, Castro said the teachers of the Lumad students had received “substitute parental authority,” which means the rescue had the consent from the parents.
She maintained that there was nothing illegal in their rescue efforts.
Castro then called on the House to conduct an investigation into the military’s alleged attacks against the Lumad community in Talaingod.
“I am fully aware of the standing policy of the House leadership on inquiries in aid of legislation, but I demand an immediate inquiry into the multiple human rights violations that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police committed against the Lumad community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, the students and teachers of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Learning Center there, the human rights workers who went to their aid including myself and Ka Satur Ocampo,” said Castro.
She also called for the junking of the “fabricated” charges against her as well as the pullout of the military from Lumad communities in Mindanao.
“This Congress should not stay silent in the face of all these atrocities,” said Castro.
The House Makabayan bloc is eyeing to file a complaint against AFP chief General Carlito Galvez Jr. after the latter accused Castro and Ocampo of being active members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. – Rappler.com