Castro: I’m proof of martial law abuses in Mindanao

Mara Cepeda

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Castro: I’m proof of martial law abuses in Mindanao


ACT Teachers Representative France Castro recalls her arrest in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, and what she described as 'laughable' charges of child abuse, human trafficking, and kidnapping were filed against her

MANILA, Philippines – An opposition congresswoman on Wednesday, December 12, denounced the claim of the military and police that there were no human rights violations under martial law in Mindanao as she pointed to her recent experience as proof of abuses. 

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Representative France Castro cited the “trumped up” charges of child abuse, human trafficking, and kidnapping, and her brief detention in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, as a clear example of abuses under martial rule in the southern island. 

“Nakakabigla kahapon sa ating executive session na ang statement ng AFP at ng PNP  ay walang human rights violations under the martial law. Salamat na lang sa karanasan ko noong November 28 to 29 at sa sarili kong mata mismo, nakita ko paano vina-violate nang pagpataw ng martial law ang mga karapatang pantao,” said Castro.

(During our executive session yesterday, I was surprised by the statement of the AFP and PNP that there are no human rights violations under martial law. Thanks to my experience on november 28 and 29, I myself saw how martial law violates human rights.)

She was speaking during Congress’ joint session on President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao for a third time. (READ: No actual rebellion, no data to back martial law extension – lawmakers)

On November 28, Castro, former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo, and 16 others joined a humanitarian mission in Talaingod to help rescue Lumad students and teachers from Salugpong Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Incorporated in Sitio Dulya, Barangay Palma. 

The mission was a response to state forces’ alleged staging of a flood blockade against the school. (READ: Mindanao residents slam AFP, PNP recommendation to extend martial law

Castro’s group was 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.

Castro said that prior to their arrest, unidentified people threw nail spikes on the road which deflated the tires of two of the 5 vans used by her 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.

Castro, Ocampo, and their 16 companions were only released from prison the evening of December 1. 

Part of the ‘legal process’?

“Ano ang aming kasalanan? Sumaklolo lang kami…. Kami itong magdadala ng mga pagkain, gamot, school supplies ay pinaparatangan ngayon ng nakakatawang kaso ng child abuse, kidnappers, at child traffickers,” said Castro.

(What was our sin? We just rescued them…. We wanted to bring food, medicine, and school supplies, yet now we are being accused as child abusers, kidnappers, and child traffickers.)

AFP chief Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal Jr insisted that the arrest of Castro – a sitting member of Congress – is “part of the legal process.”

“‘Yon pong nangyari sa Talaingod noong November 28 ay nasa proseso. Sinunod po natin ‘yong legal na proseso kung kaya po ito ay, kayo ay, ang ating kagagalang-galang na kinatawan ay nakapagpiyansa. At ito ay parte ng ating legal process,” he said. 

(What happened in Talaingod on November 28 was part of the process. We followed the  legal process that’s why our honorable representative was able to post bail. This is part of the legal process.)

The cases filed against the group are currently undergoing preliminary investigation.

Lake Sebu massacre

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao cited another case of human rights violation under martial law: the so-called Lake Sebu massacre, where 8 Lumad tribe members in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu in South Cotabato died at the hands of the military. 

Casilao was questioning why the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was not among the invited resource persons during the joint session on the martial law extension. (READ: CHR: Address human rights violations under martial law in Mindanao

The congressman said the CHR had recorded 155 cases of human rights abuses under martial law in Mindanao, including CHR Region 12’s recommendation to file murder charges against the perpetrators of the Lake Sebu massacre. 

“Eight Lumad Manobos were killed as claimed by the AFP during an encounter. But the findings of the CHR [is that it was] highly irregular, because they were killed at close range or shot at close range [and there were] blunt wounds that should not be a result of an encounter,” said Casilao.  

An outraged Senator Loren Legarda had called for an investigation into the deaths of the Lake Sebu massacre victims in December 2017. –

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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 or tweet @maracepeda.