CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Apr) – Police have held a convoy of some 300 protesting farmers at a checkpoint in the municipality of Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon on Good Friday.
Lawyer Beverly Musni, of the National Union of the Philippines in Mindanao, said the farmers were on the way to Cagayan de Oro to participate in a march rally called “Kalbaryo sa mga Kabus.”
The farmers, she said, were protesting the lack of food brought about by intense military operations in the countryside and land grabbing of ancestral lands.
Musni said the policemen and employees of the local Department of Social Welfare and Development accused the farmers of trafficking of minors because of the presence of children in the convoy.
“What they have done is without basis. How can there be trafficking when the children were with their parents?” she stressed.
Lt. Col. Surki Serenes, Philippine National Police Region 10 spokesperson, said they are awaiting word from the DSWD before the convoy would be released.
“The DSWD is checking if it is indeed the parents who are accompanying the minors,” Serenes said.
“Once the DSWD says it’s okay, the PNP will release the convoy,” he added.
Serenes said the DSWD in Manolo Fortich is ensuring that the laws on child abuse are not violated.
“They are free to go as soon as they are cleared of any unlawful infraction,” Serenes said.
Musni said the farmers are adamant that no children will be handed over to the custody of the DSWD in Manolo Fortich.
She said the farmers are ready to spend Friday night in Manolo Fortich to assert their rights to the children. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)