Davao court junks abuse case vs church leader, social workers who helped Lumad kids | Inquirer News
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Davao court junks abuse case vs church leader, social workers who helped Lumad kids

/ 08:57 PM June 14, 2022
Davao court junks abuse case vs church leader, social workers who helped Lumad kids

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MANILA, Philippines — Child abuse complaints against a church leader and social workers who helped Lumad kids in Davao have been dismissed.

In a decision dated June 13, the Davao City Regional Trial Court’s Family Court Branch 12 said the prosecution failed to present proof the respondents – that included United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran-Davao Bishop Hamuel Tequis, and other social workers and church administrators – disregarded the welfare of Lumad children inside the church compound.

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On June 1, the accused through their lawyers filed a demurrer to evidence, challenging the proof presented by the prosecution. The filing of a demurrer to evidence may result in the dismissal of the cases if the court finds it valid.

In the decision penned by Presiding Judge Dante Baguio, the court said they granted the demurrer as they did not even see any proof from the prosecution that the church administrators and social workers did not attend to the sick Lumad children taking shelter in the UCCP Haran compound.

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The evidence provided by the prosecution, the court noted, even confirmed that the administrators of the compound and the social workers have taken care of the sick Lumad children.

“To the Court’s mind, no specific intent to debase, degrade, or demean the subject children’s intrinsic worth as a human being had been convincingly shown other than the situation in the shelter that it is not conducive for living, thereby negating all the accused’s criminal liability under Section 10(a) of R.A. 7610,” the ruling states.

“There was even no proof that accused failed to immediately give medical treatment to a sickly child resulting in his death. Evidences of the prosecution even revealed that there were actions taken by the institution or the accused themselves in answering the needs of the Lumads,” it also states.

The death of two children, the court also pointed out, cannot be attributed to the accused, stressing that COVID-19 does not come from untidy conditions.

“The fact that two children died inside the Haran cannot be attributable at once to those who manage the institution. By death alone, the Court cannot conclude that there was failure to give medical treatment as science cannot hold or take life but it is God, to some belief,” the court said.

“Whether whose obligation would it be, one thing the Court knows – that dirty environment or untidy conditions is not one of the direct sources of the COVID-19,” it added.

In April 2021, Tequis and five other individuals were slapped with charges for violating sections of Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.

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But several activists believed the charges were only meant to harass church leaders and the social workers, who have been subject to red-tagging or the practice of linking people to communist rebels.

READ: Rights activists, defenders tagged human rights violators in Davao poster

In May last year, the social workers called on the public to help them post bail for the arrested individuals, saying they are saddened that people like social worker Lindy Trenilla – awarded by the Philippine Association of Social Workers Inc. as one of the most outstanding social workers in the country – could be jailed for such allegations.

KGA

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TAGS: child abuse, court, Davao, lumad, Social workers, UCCP
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