THE chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has defended the police officers involved in the “rescue operation” of 19 Lumad minors and the arrest of seven adults inside a retreat house at the University of San Carlos (USC) Talamban campus on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

For PNP Chief Gen. Debold Sinas, the personnel of the Police Regional Office Central Visayas (PRO 7) followed protocol after they allowed personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and even municipal social workers from Davao del Norte in their operations.

Sinas said they were merely responding to the complaint filed by the parents of the Lumad minors as they reportedly were brought to Cebu against their will.

Sinas, who was in Cebu on Friday, Feb. 19, met with the parents of the Lumad minors.

Sinas urged the parents of the Lumad minors to file a complaint against the six adults who reportedly brought their children to Cebu.

Sinas assured them that the PNP will assist them in the legal process.

The Lumad parents and their children are set to go back to Mindanao next week.

As for the question of whether police will file a case against USC for its involvement in the alleged “kidnapping,” Sinas said they are investigating the matter.

Sinas also ordered PRO 7 Director Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo to coordinate with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to determine if USC has any criminal liability.

Separately, DSWD 7 Director Rebecca Geamala said they are willing to take temporary custody of the four Lumad minors who are still in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) Cebu City.

She said they are scheduled to meet with the prosecutor concerned, the DSWS, the representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the members of the Inter-

Agency Council for the Welfare of Children on Feb. 23, to discuss the aftercare plans for the Lumad minors.

Geamala said they were told that the other Lumad minors had been sent home to Davao.

She said they will request a capability assessment report to determine whether the parents or custodians of these four minors are capable of getting back their custody.

She also said the DSWD 7 will have to write to the concerned local government units (LGUs) in Davao including its DSWD counterpart to monitor the minors who have been sent home. (WBS, AYB / JKV)