CHR to probers: Minimize trauma for Gentle Hands kids
MANILA, Philippines— Following a quick response inspection by its capital office, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urged all parties involved in the Gentle Hands case to do what they could to keep the children as comfortable as possible as the investigation continues.
“The Commission reminds duty bearers, as well as child rights advocates, that it is crucial that we minimize the risk of further trauma, hurt, or harm to children when conducting investigative and intervention processes,” said CHR in a Wednesday statement.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) issued a cease-and-desist order against Gentle Hands Inc. for non-compliance with minimum standards for residential facilities for children.
An unannounced inspection was conducted, acting on complaints of the orphanage’s poor condition.
CHR also noted, however, several online accounts claiming that DSWD officials and police officers present when the kids were retrieved on Tuesday were armed, “causing distress among the children.”
Gentle Hands employees confirmed these with Inquirer on Wednesday, asserting that the orphanage is “not lying” about these claims.
“Nang dumating sila dito nang 7 p.m., bedtime ng mga bata. Ang unang dumating ang mga ambulance at police vehicles. So may escort po sila. Other than that, yung mga buses. Nagulat kami na ‘yun na ‘yun. Kukunin na nila ‘yung mga kids,” said staff member CJ Yorong.
(When they arrived at 7 p.m., it was the kids’ bedtime. Ambulances and police vehicles were the first to arrive. They had escorts. Other than that, the buses came. We were shocked that that was it. They were going to get the kids already.)
Adding tension to the already distressing situation, online reports have surfaced, alleging that some officials and police officers present during the surprise inspection of Gentle Hands were armed, causing additional distress among the children.
“While we affirm that the serious concerns raised must be acted upon expeditiously, we also stress that it must be dealt with in a manner that is conscious and sensitive to the needs of the children,” said the human rights commission.
Upon knowledge of the order, CHR said it deployed a quick response team to Gentle Hands through its Investigation Office and National Capital Region (NCR) Office.
CHR revealed its attorneys and special investigators were present during the May 23 dialogue between DSWD and Gentle Hands, promising to “closely monitor the progress of this case and the situation of the children.”
“As the country’s independent national human rights institution, we underscore the importance of putting primacy on the best interest of children,” it said.
“While we affirm that the serious concerns raised must be acted upon expeditiously, we also stress that it must be dealt with in a manner that is conscious and sensitive to the needs of the children,” the commission noted.