Former Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares came into the defense of Satur Ocampo, the president of the political party, who was arrested on Wednesday, Nov. 28, for kidnapping and human trafficking allegations.
Ocampo along with Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Partylist Rep. France Castro and 16 others were apprehended at Talaingod, Davao Del Norte after their convoy was stopped at a police checkpoint.
Authorities said that they were detained for holding 14 minors, reported to be students of the Salugpungan Community Learning Center (SCLC), without the consent of their parents and permit from the Municipal Social Welfare Office.
Also arrested were the administrator and nine teachers of SCLC.
According to Colmenares, teachers of the SCLC sought assistance from Ocampo in order to transport their students, staying at dormitories, after a para-military group called ‘Alamara’ padlocked their school.
“Natakot yung mga teacher, nilabas nila, kasi gabi na, yung mga kabataan tapos pumunta sila sa highway kasi malayo. Ngayon napag-sundo sila kanila Ka Satur para makuha sila,” the former congressman explained during DZRH’s Damdaming Bayan.
Colmenares, a human rights lawyer, insisted that the group of Ocampo cannot be accused of human trafficking since they were not transporting the minors for prostitution or slavery.
The former solon also claimed that the group of Ocampo had a written consent from the parents, allowing the party to ‘save’ their children, but was not accepted by the authorities.
Colmenares trusts that the trumped-up charges against Ocampo and Castro will be dismissed, and believes that it only seeks to harass the known activist.
“Baliktad ang hustisya sa Pilipinas. Yung tumulong sa mga kabataan, sila yung kinasuhan. Yung nag-kandado ng eskwelahan, ligtas sila,” Colmenares said.
“Iyan ang problema sa treatment ng military. Kapag dis-agree ka sa kanila o sa gobyerno, grabe ang harrassment, may kaso ka pa,” Colmenares added.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, the group of Ocampo were formally charged with violating Republic Act 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, at the Tagum City Prosecutor’s Office.