By Zaldy De Layola
MANILA – The children taken by social workers from a recent operation against an erring orphanage in Quezon City are in a safe condition, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported on Thursday.
In a statement, DSWD spokesperson Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez said the 149 children were transferred to three childcare facilities — the Elsie Gaches Village in Alabang, Muntinlupa City; Nayon ng Kabataan in Mandaluyong City; and the Reception and Study Center for Children in Quezon City — on Tuesday afternoon.
This came following a letter from the Association of Child Caring Agencies of the Philippines (ACCAP) to DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian asking for transparency in the department’s dealing with the case of the Gentle Hands Inc. (GHI) orphanage.
ACCAP is a network of Child Caring Agencies, of which GHI is a member.
“As a concerned organization, we are hoping that the rules and policies in dealing with complaints against child caring agencies (CCAs) and the implementation of such extraordinary remedies in uprooting children from CCAs can be discussed and clarified in a meeting at the soonest possible time,” said ACCAP president Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana in her letter.
Lopez assured the ACCAP, as well as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), that the social workers of the department are doing everything they can to provide “extra loving care” to the children from GHI and that they are aware of the possible trauma during their transfer.
“Our social workers are well-trained in handling children who underwent trauma. Our child psychologists are also monitoring the children and ready to talk to them to ensure that they are comfortable, physically and mentally healthy,” Lopez said, as he thanked ACCAP and CHR for reminding DSWD of its duty and responsibility to the children.
In a statement Wednesday, the CHR reminded relevant agencies and child rights advocates of the importance of minimizing the risk of further trauma, hurt, or harm to children when conducting investigative and intervention processes.
Upon learning of the cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued by the DSWD due to several violations, the CHR deployed a quick response team to the GHI orphanage through its Investigation Office and the National Capital Region (NCR) Office.
CHR lawyers and special investigators were present during the May 23 dialogue between DSWD officials and representatives of GHI at the agency’s central office. (PNA)