Senate inquiry into QC orphanage closure sought
MANILA, Philippines— Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros is proposing a Senate inquiry into the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) issuance of a cease and desist order (CDO) against a private orphanage in Quezon City.
The probe to be conducted by the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality being headed by Hontiveros is being sought through her Senate Resolution No. 643 she filed this Monday.
In the resolution, Hontiveros cited the removal of 149 children from Gentle Hands Inc. (GHI) following the CDO issued last week by the DSWD for various violations, such as overcrowding and sanitation concerns.
The children were transferred to state-run facilities in Mandaluyong City, Quezon City, and Muntinlupa City.
“According to GHI, the actions of the DSWD were traumatizing for the children, many of whom already suffer from the wounds of abandonment and abuse,” Hontiveros said in the resolution.
Many of these children, she said, also have specific needs, including some who require medical attention and psycho-social counseling.
“While the safety and adequacy of living standards are important concerns, it is also important to determine whether or not the correct processes were followed in the removal of the children from a child care facility subject to a CDO, and whether or not these processes are informed by the best interests of the child doctrine,” the senator stressed.
Hontiveros said it is imperative for the Senate “to exercise the necessary oversight to check adherence to state policies and most importantly, to ensure that the best interest of the child [is] always upheld.”
The issuance of the CDO against the GHI stemmed from a private individual’s complaint that the orphanage violated Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
DSWD officials led by Secretary Rex Gatchalian confirmed some of these violations when they conducted a surprise visit to the orphanage.
“The worst part of it all is [when] we saw the fire exits, and they were sealed or had grills. That was not acceptable to us. That’s a walking fire trap,” according to Gatchalian.
He also pointed out that the orphanage housed 149 children when it was supposed to accommodate only 80.