House of Representatives

Makabayan bloc seeks House probe into Lumad arrests in Cebu City

Mara Cepeda
Makabayan bloc seeks House probe into Lumad arrests in Cebu City

FREE THE LUMAD. Bayan Muna Representative and Lumad community leader Eufemia Cullamat join the protest at the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City.

File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

'It is imperative for members of Congress...to defend the rights of our people and check on violations committed against them,' says the Makabayan bloc

Lawmakers from the progressive Makabayan bloc are calling for a House investigation into what they described as the “violent” arrest of students and teachers in a Lumad school in Cebu City.

In House Resolution (HR) No. 1590, the Makabayan legislators want the committee on human rights to “condemn and investigate” the police’s controversial arrest of Lumad students and teachers who had sought refuge at the University of San Carlos (USC) Talamban Campus.

The Makabayan bloc filed HR 1590 on Tuesday, February 16, but gave reporters a copy on Wednesday, February 17. 

The bloc, which earlier slammed the “gestapo-like abduction” of the Lumad evacuees, is composed of:

  • Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat
  • ACT Teachers Representative France Castro
  • Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas
  • Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago

In their resolution, the Makabayan bloc said the police raid is “highly condemnable.”

“It is imperative for members of Congress, as representatives of our people, to defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations committed against them, especially in this time of crisis,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

“Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people, and should not be weaponized to suppress their rights and oppress them,” they added. 

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Raid or rescue? What we know so far about Lumad arrests in Cebu City

Raid or rescue? What we know so far about Lumad arrests in Cebu City

On Monday morning, February 15, Central Visayas police entered the USC Talamban Campus to conduct what they called a “rescue operation” of around 40 Lumad minors. 

But videos of the raid showed the children screaming as the police forcefully took them away. 

At least 26 individuals were arrested, including 19 minors who have since been turned over to the Cebu City Department of Social Welfare and Development. The other 7 arrested are awaiting inquest.

No less than USC president Father Narciso Cellan Jr and members of the Societas Verbas Divini Philipines Southern Province already denied police claims that the Lumad children were allegedly being held captive by militant groups inside campus grounds. 

The Commission on Human Rights-Central Visayas has already launched an investigation into the police raid. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.