Duterte accuses NPA rebels of kidnapping children in Mindanao

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24) – President Rodrigo Duterte accused New People's Army rebels of kidnapping children in Mindanao.

In a post-disaster briefing for Tropical Storm Auring held on Tuesday at Surigao del Sur, Duterte said the rebels took away the children from their parents which aggravates the insurgency problem in the region.

"Itong mga NPA, kinukuha nila yung mga anak, dinadala nila sa ibang lugar. Kunin ninyo yung bata, isauli ninyo sa nanay pati sa tatay (These NPA rebels take away their children and brought to other places. Take these children, return them to their mother and father) because a child, a minor should not be separated from the family home," said Duterte.

The President also encouraged uniformed personnel to take the children home, even without the presence of a search warrant.

"Puntahan mo sa loob kunin yung mga bata at isaoli mo sa magulang at isauli mo at the earliest opportunity," he said.

[Translation: Go inside and get the children and return them to their parents at the earliest opportunity.]

Ending children kidnappings is one way of addressing insurgency in Mindanao as Duterte vowed to repair barangay roads to promote economic development in the region.

He also instructed Agrarian Reform Sec. John Castriciones to distribute unutilized lands of the government.

Duterte made his remark after the recent rescue of 19 Davao del Norte-based Lumad children in a top Cebu school last February 15 from alleged kidnapping by a militant group.

Authorities reported that parents say their children were taken by members of the Salugpungan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon without their consent and were told they would be brought to Davao City for their schooling. They were instead found to have been staying at a retreat house of the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus in Cebu since 2018, police said.

In 2019, 55 schools operated and owned by the Salugpungan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers in the Davao region were shut down by the Department of Education for allegedly teaching "left-leaning ideologies." Salugpungan claimed its schools were established to give indigenous groups in remote areas access to education.

Lawmakers, especially from the Makabayan bloc, are calling for an investigation into the rescue which the police insists as a legitimate operation.