DAVAO CITY – The chief of the Police Regional Office 11 (Davao Region) assured an impartial investigation on the cases involving Bayan Muna president and former House representative Satur Ocampo and 17 others, who are facing raps for alleged abuse and trafficking of minors.
"The PNP will remain fair on the conduct of investigation and we will base our investigation on gathering facts and evidence and the testimonies of the victims and Lumad children," Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales said in a press briefing on Monday afternoon.
Morales, however, made it clear that more charges would be filed against the respondents should the police find more evidence against Ocampo's group.
Ocampo, ACT Teacher Rep. France Castro, and 16 others were accused of violating Republic Act (RA) No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, in relation to RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, kidnapping, and failure to return a minor.
They were released on Saturday night after posting a total bail bond of PHP1.44 million.
“We condemn the action on the use of the Lumads on their propaganda against the government because it endangers the lives of the Lumad, particularly the women and children," Morales said.
On Bayan Muna’s planned move to file counter charges against the police, the PRO-11 chief said the group is free to exercise its rights.
"Wala naman nagtatanggal sa karapatan (No one is taking the right) of anybody. We are ready to face any allegation," he said.
Morales also called on all of the parents of the 14 minors who were found in the convoy of Ocampo's group to "come out and file complaints."
Brig. Gen. Ernesto Torres, commander of the Army's 1003rd Infantry Brigade, also denied allegations of military harassment.
Torres said Ocampo's group conducted the supposed "fact-finding mission" as a pretext to counter the presence of the military in the area.
"I did not hear from the IPs (Indigenous Peoples) that there were harassments. In fact, they were mediating," he said. (Rhoda Grace B. Saron/PNA)
Photo from GMA News Online