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Cebu court orders release of 'lumad' student to father.

CEBU CITY-A regional trial court (RTC) has ordered the immediate release of one of the 'lumad' students who were taken into custody by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Visayas after they were supposedly 'rescued' by the police from inside a university campus in February.

In a ruling dated March 11, Judge Leah Geraldez of Cebu RTC Branch 20 said the 16-year-old girl had to be returned to her father as the court found no factual and legal basis to confine her at the DSWD's Crisis Intervention Center here.

'The court cannot deprive the petitioners of such a fundamental right as parental authority over his child based on bare allegations alone,' she said.

The issue stemmed from a writ of habeas corpus petition filed by the girl's father on March 4, who was assisted by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Cebu For Human Rights and the Free Legal Assistance Group.

The petition sought to compel Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, director of the Central Visayas police; DSWD regional director Rebecca Geamala; and Brenda Abilo of the Crisis Intervention Center to 'produce the body' of the girl.

The 'rescue'

The minor was among the 19 lumad students whom the DSWD and the police 'rescued' at the retreat house at the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos University (USC) in Barangay Talamban, Cebu City, on Feb. 15.

Police claimed the minors were exploited by a group that operates schools for lumad children in Mindanao and were sent to antigovernment protest rallies.

The allegations were denied by the Save Our Schools Network Cebu-a group of child-focused nongovernmental organizations, and the Catholic priests who run USC.

On Feb. 21, 13 of the lumad minors were flown back to their hometowns in Davao del Norte.

Fundamental right

The girl's father arrived in Cebu on Feb. 24 after learning his daughter was among those still held by DSWD. He met his daughter on Feb. 26 but was later barred from talking to her.

The father said it was his daughter who asked in October 2019 to join the 'bakwit' school program in Cebu. He said he regularly communicated with her through mobile phone calls and sent her a monthly allowance of P1,000 to P2,000.

He denied claims that his daughter was a member of a terrorist group.

Geraldez, in her ruling, said the court could not deprive the father of his fundamental right of parental authority over his daughter based on 'bare allegations alone.'

'The fact is she does not have freedom of movement, she cannot see anyone from outside without the approval of the respondents, and she does not have freedom and privacy of communication,' the judge noted.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 13, 2021
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