Feb 16, 2021 @ 12:22

Teacher of Lumads who fought Terror Law now accused of training child soldiers

Confirming the worst fears of the dozens of petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act, one of them, a volunteer teacher for the Lumad community, has been accused of training children for warfare.

Chad Errol Booc is one of the petitioners in the 24th petition, Beverly Longid, et al. versus Anti-Terrorism Council, et al. (G.R. No. 252904). They were represented by University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law constitutional law professor Antonio La Viña.

Booc was one of the persons arrested during the raid conducted by authorities in a retreat house at the University of San Carlos (USC) Talamban campus in Cebu City on February 15, 2021.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), in a statement, claimed that the children were brought to Cebu City to “undergo revolutionary training as future armed combatants,” saying they were first “lured to enroll with communist front Salugpungan [sic] School” in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

This was a misspelling of the name of Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc.—itself a petitioner in the 37th petition titled Haroun Lucman, Jr., et al. versus Salvador Medialdea (G.R. No. 253420) and filed through Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) College of Law dean Manuel Quibod.

USC and the Archdiocese of Cebu explained that the Lumad children were brought there to complete their modular schooling following the closure of the Salugpongan schools by the government. The classes were scheduled to end on April 3, 2020, but the children were prevented from leaving by the Cebu City government, which imposed a community quarantine.

The children were starting to be returned to their homes in southern Mindanao, after the preparation of swab tests, fare and food allowance. Four were already sent home and another batch was supposed to go this week, but authorities intervened in the guise of a “rescue.”

“No rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for, and treated with their best interest in mind,” the USC and the Archdiocese of Cebu said in their joint statement.

Booc and the other arrested persons, including two teachers and a datu, would be charged with serious illegal detention, human trafficking, and violations of the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, and the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act.

The police did not mention if the ATA would be used to charge them with providing training and material support to terrorists and recruiting children to terrorist organizations.

But, Booc, in the Longid petition, had argued that he faced an imminent, credible threat of prosecution under the allegedly vague and overbroad provisions of the ATA.

As a member of Save Our Schools, a network campaigning against the military’s violations of the children’s right to education, Booc said he had been red-tagged by military and paramilitary groups in the Caraga Administrative Region.

In the petition, Booc noted that no less than President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools supposedly for teaching their children to rebel against the government.

Booc argued that because of the poorly written provisions of the law championed by Senator Panfilo Lacson, his act of educating Lumad children “mutates into a criminal act under the laws [sic] overbroad and ambiguous terms.”

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