DAVAO CITY – Airport police on Saturday tried to bar at least 23 Lumad children from Davao del Norte, who were on their way to Manila to attend a conference sponsored by the Save Our Schools Network.
Lindy Trenilla of Kabiba Alliance for Children’s Concerns, a nongovernment organization, said airport police officers at the Davao International Airport would not allow the children – aged 10-17 – to board their flight and demanded to see their travel permits.
It was actually the second time airport police tried to prevent the children from flying, Trenilla said.
On Thursday, the airport police succeeded in barring the delegation, which also included Trenilla and some of the parents of the children.
“This is martial law,” she said.
Trenilla said the policemen questioned them on the purpose of the travel and demanded to see travel permits for the children.
She said they showed permits issued by the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO), but even then, they were questioned about the purpose of their travel.
Trenilla said because of the questioning, they missed their flight and all of them had to be rebooked for the next flight – which left at past noon – when they were finally allowed to fly.
But Maria Luisa Bermudo, the CSSDO chief, said the act of the airport police was in line with the Children’s Code of Davao.
Under the code, children 15 years and below should have travel permits before they are allowed to leave the city.
Bermudo said it was only after Thursday’s initial incident that they were asked to process the travel permits of 10 of the 23 minors that SOS representatives were traveling with to Manila.
“The permits to travel were processed and released after necessary documents were provided,” she said. “The documents included birth certificates and parental consent. We made sure that these papers were validated.”
Bermudo said on Saturday, the airport police and the staff manning the airline counter wanted to verify the travel permits the CSSDO had issued.
“Thus, we informed the airline and the airport police that the papers were verified,” she said.
Bermudo said the city government was determined to implement the Children’s Code and no one was exempted from it.
“The implementation of the Children’s Code of Davao is something that we always do every day and this is to protect our children from possible incidents of trafficking,” she said.
Bermudo rejected Kabiba’s claim that the incident was a manifestation of martial law.
“This is not about martial law,” she said. “Plain and simple, this is about ensuring the interest and safety of our children.”
She added that Kabiba was even one of “our partners in the crafting and the implementation of this code.” /atm
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