DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Soldiers broke up an anti-drug cultural workshop in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley, arrested a minor and three others, and detained them in a military camp for two days, human rights group Karapatan here reported on Monday, February 19.
Karapatan Southern Mindanao secretary Jay Apiag told Davao Today that armed men in uniform barged into the “Youth Action Anti-Drugs Workshop” held at the Dalaguit Elementary School in New Dalaguit, Montevista organized by Asdang Kultura (AK), a provincial-wide cultural group last Saturday afternoon, February 17.
The group’s workshop teaches local youth the basics in theater production and dancing among others as a response to the government’s thrust in ending the use of illegal drugs in the country
Karapatan organized a Quick Response Team (QRT) to verify the incident after receiving a report from the AK members on Sunday.
Apiag said, based on their interview with 17-year old Riza (not her real name), the military would have taken the 24 participants including the volunteer instructors. Riza asked them to spare the other children and take her instead along with the volunteer instructor Eugene Laurente from Davao City, Grediliz Ornopia, 23 and Darlene Dasig, 41, both residents of Montevista town.
“They were immediately brought to the military camp in Monkayo and was only brought to the Montevista Emergency Hospital for a medical check-up on Monday,” Apiag added.
From the hospital, the minor was turned over to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) office, while the three others were brought to the police station.
“According to Riza,” Apiag added, “they were not physically harmed by the military but they were forced to ‘surrender’ [as NPA members]. That constitutes psychological and mental torture.”
Meanwhile, the 10th Infantry Battalion, in a statement, said soldiers were in a “rescue operation” and tagged the volunteers as members of the underground groups recruiting for the CPP-NPA.
However, Apiag refuted the military’s claim. “It’s not something new, the military is only good in twisting stories. The persons they detained are civilians,” said Apiag.
Laurente is a volunteer teacher at the Assumption College of Davao Community Extension Program while Ornopia and Dasig are volunteers of AK as the latter’s child is also an active member of the said group.
Asdang Kultura has been performing in different activities in Davao City and even joined the Manilakbayan, the caravan protest to Manila by Lumad and other progressive groups from Mindanao.
“It’s far from ‘rescuing’ because they were held at the military camp since February 17 (Saturday) instead of bringing the minor immediately to the MSWD as part of the protocol, forced them to surrender as NPA, and were only released on Monday late night,” Apiag said.
Apiag underscored that the military violated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in “detaining” the four individuals, including a minor.
“The victims are in a trauma especially the minor,” Apiag said.
He added that they will conduct a psycho-social intervention activity for the victims to ease the trauma and that the group is currently preparing for possible legal action. (davaotoday.com)