ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao recently learned that they have been slapped with child abuse charges over the alleged participation of Lumad children in a protest rally in Davao City.

Tinio said the Davao City Prosecutor’s Office has directed him and Casilao to file their reply to the child abuse charges filed against them by the Davao City police for allegedly forcing the minors to join the rally.

“Just yesterday (December 4), nakatanggap ako (at) si Rep. Casilao ng subpoena, so kami naman ang sinampahan ng complaint, ng Davao City Police for child abuse. Why? Kasi daw nung October 23 nagpunta kami ni congressman Ayik sa isang rally sa Davao City at nagsalita kami dun, nanawagan na tapusin na ang martial law at nanawagan din para titigil yung harassment sa mga Lumad schools na ongoning na since then,” Tinio said in a press conference Wednesday, December 5.

“Ayon sa Davao Police, child abuse yun kasi merong mga minors na nasa rally,” he added.

The subpoena, issued by Davao City Prosecutor Rizalyn Gonzales, states that the lawmakers should submit their respective counter affidavits within 10 days after their receipt of the order.

The subpoena was served days after the arrest of ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo for alleged human trafficking and kidnapping charges in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Complainant Police Senior Inspector Lilibeth Liza Remolar, chief of the Women and Children’s Protection Desk, said she saw many children in the rally led by Tinio and Casilao at Freedom Park on Roxas Street in Davao City last October 23.

Remolar said some of the children held placards, some shouted slogans against the government and some were “coached” to shout.

“That during the rally, Antonio Tinio, ACT Teachers Party-ist representative and Ariel Casilao, Anakpawis Party-list representative and other speakers were talking one at a time, shouting on the microphone and also coaching the crowd to respond to their chant ‘martial law, ibasura!’ ‘edukasyon! dili bala!’ and many others,” said Remolar in the complaint affidavit obtained by the media.

“They were leading the group, including the children with them, prompting to listen to what their leaders and speakers were talking and saying. They were influencing the minors to be angry and to resent the present administration,” added Remolar.

She said the incident has prompted the police to set up a play area with mats and toys for the children a few meters away from where the rally was being conducted.

Tinio and Casilao, along with the members of the Makabayan bloc, slammed the supposed move of the government to silence their critics.

“Kinokondena po natin ang complaint na ito. Ito po ay isang malinaw na halimbawa na yung excercise ng constitunionally guaranteed rights, in this case yug pagsalita namin sa rally na hindi ito ilegal na ginagarantya ito ng constitution na nais nila palabasin na krimen,” Tinio said.

“This is a clear case of harrasment at nakikita na siguro natin yung padron na talagang tinatarget for harrasment ang Makabayan bloc. Ibig sabihn ang layunin ng Duterte administration kaushan at ipakulong ang oposisyon,” he added.

It was Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who publicly called out Tinio and Casilao in an Instagram post on October 23 for allegedly encouraging the children to join their rally.

In the post, she said Casilao and Tinio do not deserve to be in the Congress as they “do not endeavour to put children in schools.”

Duterte-Carpio has been campaigning against the Makabayan bloc. She earlier called for the expulsion of the opposition lawmakers from the Congress after she branded them as terrorists and terrorist symphatizers.

Aside from Casilao and Tinio, other members of the Makabayan bloc are Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Gabriela Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas. (SunStar Philippines)