Rep. Castro, Bayan Muna’s Ocampo back in Manila; 16 others out on bail 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 December) — ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro and Bayan Muna President Satur Ocampo took the last flight to Manila from this city Saturday night after being detained with 16 others from evening of November 28 until their release on bail evening of December 1.

The Talaingod 18 — Castro, Ocampo, four Protestant pastors, two ACT party-list staff, the executive director of Salugpongan community school and nine of its teachers — posted bail bond of 80,000 pesos each or a total of 1.44 million pesos — to be freed from detention for alleged kidnapping, child abuse and human trafficking.

The Talaingod 18 at the regional trial court in Tagum City on 01 December 2018, shortly before they were released on bail. Photo courtesy of Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate

Lawyer Joel Mahinay of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said in a telephone interview on Sunday that Castro and Ocampo had taken the last flight more than two hours after their release at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.

Mahinay said Ocampo and Castro were supposed to have left earlier had they been released immediately after the issuance of the release order at 7 p.m. by Judge Arlene Palabrica of the Regional Trial Court in Tagum City.

The judge had to issue a supplemental order as the police initially objected to their release, despite the posting of the bail bond and the judge’s release order. Police officer and lawyer Louie Padillo manifested that they would not release the respondents because they are still undergoing preliminary investigation for kidnapping, failure to return the minors, and the bail of P80,000 was only for the violation of Republic Act 7610 also known as the Special Protect of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

In her supplemental order, Judge Palabrica said: “We must rule in favor of the respondents. It must be borne in mind that the prosecution merely recommends bail, the Court has the final and ultimate say on it.”

“(As the) respondents are still presumed innocent and no Information have been filed against them, their supreme right to liberty must be upheld,” she said.

On Thursday, the Provincial Prosecutor, Norman Solis, found probable cause only in the alleged violation of RA 7160 and gave the respondents 10 days to file their counter-affidavits.

Mahinay questioned the arrest of the Talaingod 18 who went to Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte on November 28 allegedly to rescue the minors and their teachers from alleged harassments from the paramilitary group Alamara.

The 56th Infantry Battalion initially blocked the convoy of five vans, later both the miltary and police stopped the convoy with the 14 minors that they claimed were being transported without parental cnsent.

The police chief of Talaingod filed a complaint the next day for alleged human trafficking, kidnapping and child abuse.

Mahinay said the arrest was questionable while the charges are baseless.

“Their accusations of arrest and kidnapping are hard to believe,” he said.

Mahinay asked how authorities can accuse the group of failing to return the minors and kidnapping, which constitutes serious illegal detention, when the parents themselves brought them to the Salugpongan school.

Also released on bail were Pastors Edgar Ugal, Eller A. Ordeza, Ryan C. Magpayo  and Rev. Jurie Jaime; Meggie Nolasco, Jesus Modamo, Maryro Poquita, Maria Concepcion Ibarra, Jenveive Paraba, Merhaya Talledo, Maricel Andagkit, Marcial Rendon, Ariel Ansan, Mariane Aga, Nerfa Awing, and Wingwing Daunsay.(Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)