THE REGIONAL trial court has issued an arrest warrant against six UCCP-Haran officials for alleged violations of the child abuse law.
The warrant was signed by RTC XI Branch 12 Judge Dante Baguio on April 21, 2021. The respondents were Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Rev. Daniel Palicte, Ephraim Malazarte, Jong Monson, Lindy Trenilla, and Grace Avila, all residents of Haran compound along Father Selga Street.
They were charged for RA7610 or the Special Protection of Child against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act. The court recommended a bond of P80,000 each for two counts of RA 7610.
Seven months ago, a group of Ata-Manabos filed a complaint before the Davao City Prosecution Office against the leadership of UCCP-Haran and the New People’s Army for alleged exploitation and recruitment of their tribal members.
The group filed criminal cases for violations of Republic Act No. 9208, as amended by Republic Act No. 10364 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208), and RA 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse), Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and RA 9851 (Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity).
Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, legal cooperation cluster spokesperson under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said that at the center of the cases would be the children who are the most vulnerable to the propaganda and promises of the NPA.
“We also filed cases of child abuse because when these children were recruited, they were minors and were incapable of giving consent,” Bosantog said. As for the violation of the International Humanitarian Laws, he said it was very clear that the children were later forced to become combatants for the NPA.
The complaint was based on the case build-up conducted by the Police Regional Office XI, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group XI, Eastern Mindanao Command, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The Ata-Manobos came from Davao del Norte and Davao Occidental.
“When they are made to stay in Haran a religious institution they were taught to make bombs, to ambush our soldiers, they were made to dismantle firearms and they were indoctrinated all against their will,” he said.
In several interviews, UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis had always denied accusations that they are holding the IPs staying in the area as hostages. He said that they are always free to leave. But at the same time, they can’t turn their backs on the individuals seeking shelter while escaping the militarization in their communities.
The Pasaka Lumad Confederation, one of the organizers of Haran, also said in a Facebook post in May 2020, that the families can always go home but they opted to stay out of fear.
“Even if we want to go home, we are alarmed at how the Alamara, the military, and the state are forcing us to do so,” the group said in a statement. “Even if we want to return to our communities, would there be peace if the Alamara and the military will continue to harass us? This is the very reason why we evacuated from our communities.”
But Bosantog said they have evidence that the IPs were transported to different parts of the country where they were forced to join rallies in exchange for food. He added they were brought to Manila through Bayan Muna cars.
“One of the cases is forced labor. They made slaves out of our IPs. Second is trafficking in person, they trafficked our IP communities from their ancestral lands to areas like Surigao, Bicol, Manila, Davao City, and they made them perform acts against their will,” he said.
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