Philippine Police Raid Catholic University, Arrest 21 Lumad Students

Human rights groups and activists slammed Philippine authorities after raiding a Catholic university in Cebu city, arresting at least 26 Lumad students and teachers on Feb. 15 in what police called a “rescue operation”.

The Central Visayas Police, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) raided the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus (USC) and took at least 21 Lumad students into custody. 

Seven teachers and Lumad elders were accused of kidnapping. Authorities arrested them without a warrant and detained them at the Central Visayas police headquarters.

Police said 19 of the detained students were minors and had been released to the custody of the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) office.

Many organizations and academic institutions condemned the move, which the government claimed to be a “rescue operation”.

“What kind of rescue operation involved force and coercion by uniformed elements like the PNP, knowing that these students were victims of forced evacuation amid military and paramilitary operations in their indigenous people’s community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte?” said Cristina Palabay, the secretary-general of KARAPATAN, an alliance of individuals and groups that work together for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.

“The Lumad students were obviously in distress as they were forced out of the Lumad school in Cebu, despite and even with the presence of their parents,” Palabay added.

Several critics saw this as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s intensifying approach amid his administration’s crackdown against communists who have been waging an armed conflict in the country for hundreds of years already.

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