All lies

Army debunks ComVal kidnapping yarn

THE MILITARY yesterday rejected allegations they abducted and held 24 youth and children delegates of a cultural training in Montevista, Compostela Valley.

“All lies, contrary to what really transpired,” said Lt. Col. Balignasay, the newly designated commander of 25th Infantry Battalion, told TIMES.

Balignasay said the participants were just invited and were brought to the 25th IB headquarters for questioning after they received information from a rebel surrenderer about the activity last Saturday.

Capt. Alan Apara, the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 25th IB, said they only “rescued the 24 children and youth from being caught in a possible crossfire with the terrorist since this unit has an ongoing combat operation in the area.”

Apara said the abduction of the training participants, including instructor Eugene Laurente and his companion Roshelle Mae Selorio, was purely false information.

He said all children were immediately sent home on that same day after the verification.

On the case of Eugene and Roshelle, Apara said both voluntarily went with the troopers to the town police station and were later brought to Camp Kalaw for further verification and interview.

After conducting verification, including medical check-up and certification from the town social welfare and development office, the two were also released and sent home at around 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

The military sources said that on Feb. 16, a day prior to the incident, the 25th IB launched a Focus Military Operation (FMO) in three barangays of Montevista — New Dalaguete, Mayaon and Camatangan — in response to the reported presence of armed groups believed to be members of the Guerilla Front 33 and Pulang Bagani Command 4 who were consolidated in the area.

On the same day, Apara said they received information regarding the activity at the elementary school in New Dalaguete that was attended by several youth and children.

“The unit immediately sent out patrols to verify the information so as to rescue and bring the youth to safety in case of armed confrontation between the terrorists and the government forces happened,” he said.

During the rescue, the unit found something “interesting” with Eugene and Roshelle and their teachings.

“It was relatively incidental that the unit found something subversive in their belongings, especially (on their) cell phones,” the report said.

Through the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao, the unit exercised its official and legal functions by inviting the instructors for interview to further verify the issues found.

 

Harassment

On Monday, Representatives Antonio Tinio and Francisca Castro, both of the militant ACT Teachers, blasted the military for the “abduction” of the 24 youth and children.

“We demand the immediate release of the 24 delegates of Youth Action Anti-Drugs Workshop and their teachers,” Tinio said in a statement. “The 25th IB should be held accountable for the abduction of the minors and their teachers.”

“We condemn the Duterte administration for these harassments in the communities happen by the military especially in Mindanao,” Castro said.

“Instead of helping and supporting these volunteer teachers continue teaching in the far-flung communities in Mindanao, the government has been arresting them on trumped-up charges, harassing the schools, and highly militarizing their communities,” Tinio added. “With the extended declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, human rights violations such as these against activists, defenders of the ancestral lands of the Lumad communities against mining have heightened with impunity.”

According to the Save Our Schools Network, there have been 44 Lumad schools that have been continuously harassed by the military.

“We also call for an end to the false charges and harassment against our Lumad educators. We also call for the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao,” Castro said.

Posted in HEADLINES