DAVAO CITY, Philippines – “As soon as the courts open, we will exert all legal remedies to correct the situation and the narrative: that Ka Satur was just trying to help the beleaguered lumad students in Talaingod.”
The statement was released on Tuesday by Atty. Rachel F. Pastores, the managing counsel of former Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Saturnino “Ka Satur” Ocampo and 17 other individuals, including ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro who was previously charged by the state of Kidnapping and Human Trafficking.
Pastores also described the charges as ludicrous, adding that the same will not survive when trialed in court or even in public scrutiny.
Ocampo, Castro and the rest of their companions were detained last November 28 by the local police of Talaingod town in Davao del Norte, with the support of the military’s 56th Infantry battalion and paramilitary group in the area.
The group was part of the National Solidarity Mission in Talaingod in response to the call of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLCI) when a Salugpongan school in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil was harassed and forcibly closed down by the paramilitary group called “Alamara”.
Ocampo’s group were aiding the traumatized students of said Salugpongan school and accompanied them to the Provincial Government of Davao del Norte to seek assistance when flagged down by the police and the military.
They were immediately detained and eventually charged with kidnapping and human trafficking.
Pastores said Ocampo and his group “had no intention to abuse, kidnap, or, more thoughtlessly, traffic the children.”
“They had, in fact, responded to the ‘cry of the needy’, the call of the Salugpongan schools for rescue in the midst of forcible closure and embargo by the army and allied paramilitary,” she added.
As charged during the inquest proceeding, Pastores said the accusers claimed maltreatment of the children, but in reality, she added, it was the police, military and the paramilitary who abused and endangered the lives and safety of the children when they apprehended the convoy of Ocampo and his group and eventually detained them together with the rescued school children.
“The police ought to rethink how to best safeguard the rights of the lumad,” Pastores pointed out, and asked the accusers: “Why come after those carrying books and food supplies to teach and feed when they should go after the paramilitary with guns and batons who terrorize and maim the lumad?”
She added that Ocampo is not new to the persecutions of the state, saying that the former partylist representative has survived the same in the past forty years, with all the cases filed dismissed for being baseless.
“The arrogant display of power, in a territory under Martial Law, is a lame, ugly political stunt that will boomerang on the individual policemen and the image of the PNP in general. Know that the unlawful arrest of Ka Satur and his companions will not be without consequences,” Pastores said.
Satur’s group given due process
Meanwhile, Malacañang assured the public that due process will be served to Ocampo, Castro and the rest of the accused.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said the Palace respects the court’s decision by allowing Ocampo and his co-accused to post bail.
The posting of bail, Panelo added, is the right of Ocampo and his co-accused.
The presumption of regularity of law enforcers during security operations, as reiterated by President Rodrigo Duterte, was also expressed by Panelo during the press briefing.
He said Ocampo and his group can also press charges if they see violations and irregularities made by the arresting officers. (davaotoday.com)