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DSWD shuts down orphanage in Quezon City, rescues 149 children

THE Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has rescued 149 children from a private orphanage in Quezon City, which it shut down following a complaint that it allegedly violated a law against child abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.

At a Palace press briefing on Tuesday, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian confirmed that the DSWD has issued a cease and desist order against Gentle Hands Inc. (GHI), which he said, is overpopulated and does not meet the department’s safety and living standards.

“One, the upkeep was not your ideal, nakakalat iyong basura (garbage is all over the place). Two, ventilation was an issue, kasi ang nangyari dito (what happened here is that), they over capacitated the orphanage, it’s a privately run orphanage, 80 lang ang rating niya, but they are running at 149,” Gatchalian told reporters.

“So, there right there and there, maling-mali na iyon eh (that is already so wrong). And the worst part of it is we saw the fire exits and they were sealed or may mga (there are) grills and that was not acceptable to us, that is a walking fire [trap],” he added.

Gatchalian said the children in Gentle Hands orphanage would be moved to the DSWD facilities.

“The cease and desist order is anchored on our parent of the national doctrine. We are supposed to take care of and protect those that cannot protect themselves, especially children. So that is why we move our cease and desist, but giving them 20 days to answer our findings and also to fix whatever they need to fix. But in the interim, we have to protect the children,” Gatchalian.

“Now, as we speak right now, our social workers are on site to make sure that we work with the children, that they are properly handled, ‘di ba, siyempre (of course) you just don’t pull out. Our social workers know the protocol. So, ang (the) bottom line is we are exercising our power to protect, to stand as parents of the nation, in this case, the parents of the children. Because the child’s welfare, and well-being is the primordial driver of our social protection mandate,” he added.

In a separate statement, DSWD Spokesman and Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez said the agency’s action stemmed from a complaint that was filed against GHI in violation of Republic Act 7610, or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination.

Lopez said Secretary Gatchalian and some DSWD officials visited the GHI orphanage on Saturday, May 20, at 27 F. Castillo Street, Barangay Bagumbuhay, Project 4. He said during the visit, only the household help were present.

“Through the unannounced inspection, the Secretary was able to confirm that the children in GHI are in imminent danger and decided that it is in the best interest of the children to be transferred to a safe shelter,” Lopez said on Tuesday.

GHI is a legally recognized and licensed social welfare and development agency (SWDA) with License DSWD-SB-L-000052-2021 granted on Aug. 12, 2021, and valid until Aug. 13, 2024.

“The CDO is part of DSWD’s authority, regulatory powers, and responsibility to assist in the protection of the rights of children from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development,” Lopez said.

A Facebook post by GHI on Monday night said: “We have come to a compromise. Thank you, DSWD, for being willing to engage in a discussion tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. We are praying to make decisions and have agreements for the best interest of the child.”

The Manila Times also attempted to contact GHI Inc., which promised to provide more information. — Catherine S. Valente

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