DAVAO CITY – Members of children’s rights organizations were allegedly harassed by state forces on Thursday night,  a national alliance of children’s rights groups said.

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns chairperson Madella Santiago and Eilekrenes Manano of Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) were tailed by suspected elements of the armed forces at around 7:30 in the evening of May 14.

Kharlo Manano, Salinlahi secretary-general said the two came from a meeting in their office when the incident happened.

“After having a meeting in our office, our colleagues were on their way to grab dinner at a nearby supermarket. One of our volunteers noticed that the man seating beside him at a waiting shed, which was across the spot where our colleagues hailed a tricycle, was using a device that seemed to be a radio. He heard the man saying ‘Nandito na sila’ (they are already here),” Manano said.

Manano said a white motorcycle driven by another man arrived and the man holding the device rode on it.

“These two men followed the tricycle that our colleagues rode on,” he said.

“Alarmed and fearing for the safety of our colleagues, our volunteer sought the help of our other colleague. They immediately followed them at the supermarket to warn them and true enough, four (4) men were seen outside the establishment where our colleagues were. Our volunteer heard the two (2) men talking. One of them said,  ‘Nasa loob pa sila, kumakain’ (they are still inside, eating),” Manano said.

The victims, who are both registered social workers (RSW), also noticed that the two (2) men outside wearing headsets were looking at them and one of them was trying to hide himself when he was noticed.

The two immediately went back to the office while the two (2) men followed them still using their motorcycle. Minutes after reaching their office, the volunteer and other members of Salinlahi noticed that the motorcycle riding men returned and surveilled the office premises.

Manano said the incident is a clear act of harassment. He said their group Salinlahi and CRC, which is also affiliated to Salinlahi, have been active in the campaign against militarization of schools in the communities.

“We are actively exposing and opposing government policies and programs that are not beneficial for Filipino children and their families. CRC has been documenting cases and providing services to children victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its para-military groups for almost three decades now,” Manano said.

“Salinlahi, as the lead convener of the Save our Schools Network has been very vocal in opposing the increasing cases of military attacks and encampment on schools particularly in peasant and indigenous peoples’ communities,” Manano said.

“This desperate move by state agents aims to weaken our resolve in continuing to rally against military attacks on community schools. With school opening just around the corner, we know that the AFP and other paramilitary groups are on battle-ready mode to terrorize the schools of indigenous and peasant children,” Manano said. (davaotoday.com)

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