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Duterte accuses Satur Ocampo, France Castro of endangering Lumad children

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte agrees with the police's decision to file human trafficking and kidnapping charges against Leftist leaders Satur Ocampo and France Castro.

In an interview with reporters on Monday, December 3, Duterte echoed the police allegation that the two – one former and one incumbent party-list representatives – were guilty of kidnapping for bringing 14 minors out of Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

"I support the police and the military in their views. You know an ordinary person, especially if you're a senator, you must be aware that you cannot remove children from one community to another without the consent of the parents. That is actually kidnapping," Duterte said.

Ocampo was formerly Bayan Muna representative while Castro is now ACT Teachers representative. Now out on bail, they have insisted they were rescuing the children from a supposed food blockade being imposed by the military and alleged attacks against Lumad schools by authorities.

But Duterte slammed the two for putting the children in danger: "You bring in children into a territory baka magkaupakan pa, magkabarilan (there might be fighting, shooting), you put in danger everybody."

The President also accused the Leftist movement of "using" indigenous peoples and their grievances to further its own agenda.

"It's all controlling the lives of the natives. That's the difficult thing with the communists. They are using the Lumad so most of those who die are Lumad. Seventy-five [percent] of the armed soldiers of the New People's Army are Lumads," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He then accused Bayan Muna and groups like Kilusang Mayo Uno of being "legal fronts" of the Communist Party of the Philippines. 

Ocampo and Castro, along with several others, were arrested on November 29, at a checkpoint in Talaingod town after 14 minors were found in their convoy.

Police filed charges – human trafficking in relation to kidnapping, child abuse, and failure to return a minor – against Ocampo's group.

On Saturday, December 1, Executive Judge Arlene Palabrica of the 11th Judicial Region ordered their release after they each posted an P80,000 bond. 

Ocampo's wife, journalism professor Bobbie Malay, had called the accusation against him "laughable." She said, "They just have to invent things to pin people who are trying to do a job." 

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, who was Makati congressman when Ocampo was Bayan Muna representative, said he didn't need to hear the government's version of the story since he was certain Ocampo was innocent. 

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said lawmakers, like Castro, and former representative Ocampo deserve “dignified and respectful treatment” when facing charges. – Rappler.com

 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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