DSWD chief defends issuance of 3 cease and desist orders vs orphanage
MANILA, Philippines — Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian on Wednesday enumerated the reasons why it was necessary to issue three Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs) against private childcare facility Gentle Hands Inc (GHI).
Gatchalian, during the public hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality held Wednesday, cited issues of overcrowding and lack of fire exits in the GHI facility.
“Among the violations committed by the GHI facility in Project 4, Quezon City were overcrowding and the lack of fire exits. [These] endanger the lives of the more than 100 children-residents.”
The three CDOs against the childcare facility were issued on May 22, June 13, and July 4 respectively.
The first CDO was issued due to the “imminent danger” at the orphanage, which include overcrowding, ventilation concerns, and fire safety issues. Both second and third CDOs were released by DSWD after finding out that GHI has no Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.
After the issuance of the first CDO, the transfer of over 100 children from the orphanage to three other care facilities in Metro Manila was facilitated by DSWD.
Meanwhile, GHI, through its legal counsel Atty. Tina Balajadia, explained that the orphanage was labeled “to be demolished” by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) due to a subway program. This existing “contract” with DOTr prohibits GHI to make renovations and repairs according to Balajadia.
Gatchalian, however, stressed that the issue is not the orphanage’s building, but its overcrowding.
“The building is not the issue, but overcrowding is. We don’t question their history. Their accolades are very good. But sometimes people get relaxed. And my point is when I did the spot check, imminent danger was there,” said Gatchalian in a mix of English and Filipino, adding that based on the fire safety inspection conducted by the Bureau of Fire Protection, the orphanage is only allowed to house 50 children.
“The point here is not the building. The point here is that the GHI is classified as a small-scale residential facility. Kaya noong nag-inspect ang Bureau of Fire Protection, nagulat sila na 100 plus na yung nakatira sa loob.”
(That’s why when the Bureau of Fire Protection conducted an inspection, they were shocked to discover that more than 100 people were living inside.)
Lack of case folders for children
Apart from the “dangers” at its facility, Gatchalian likewise slammed GHI for having “no readily-available case folders” for its children-residents.
“When we transferred [the children], [GHI] refused to give the complete set of the children’s case folders,” Gatchalian disclosed.
“They refused, categorically refused to give us the case folders. We had to demand it over and over during the conference meetings,” the DSWD Secretary added.
This, Gatchalian stressed, is a manifestation of potential issues related to GHI’s lack of accountability and transparency. Case folders, as explained by the DSWD official, contain records that are critical for ensuring the safety and well-being of each child under the facility’s care.
“All children from GHI are now fully accounted for and fully inventoried,” he emphasized.