American couple face trafficking, child abuse raps
TAGBILARAN CITY—Charges of human trafficking and child abuse were filed against an American couple for running an orphanage here without a permit.
Matthew Dwinells, 56, and his wife, Dalisay, 63, were detained at the National Bureau of Investigation office here pending resolution of the complaint at the prosecutor’s office.
Attached in the complaint was the joint affidavit of six personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), alleging that the couple failed to present a permit from the agency authorizing them to operate an orphanage in Tagbilaran City.
The couple could not show proof that the parents of the 25 minors—13 girls and 12 boys—and 13 others, aged 18 and 19, allowed them to bring their children to Bohol province. Of the 38 children and teens rescued from the orphanage, 35 were from Bohol, two from Leyte province and one from Negros Island.
The Dwinells couple are missionaries who identify themselves as directors of the Street Kids Philippine Mission, which has been operating for six years. It rescues street kids in Cebu City.
The couple operated an orphanage in a two-story house in Barangay Bool in this city that was raided by NBI agents on Oct. 22 on the request of the DSWD.
Interviewed at his detention cell, Matthew claimed they were merely delayed in processing documents needed for the permit to run the orphanage.
He dismissed allegations of human trafficking, saying they sought consent from the parents of the 38 children. He could not, however, present a written proof.
The couple showed a permit from the Office of the Mayor in Dauis town that authorized them to run an orphanage there. The permit, however, expired on Dec. 31, 2015.
“I am not making money from these kids and if I do, I am really a bad person,” Matthew said. “I love the Philippines. I love the kids. We have done nothing wrong. We have nothing to hide.”
Matthew clarified that only 32 were under their custody because the six others were with another group living in the same house.
Lawyer Arcelito Albao, supervising agent of NBI Bohol, said the Dwinells couple might have used the children to raise money from foreign donors “for personal gain.”
But Matthew said the orphanage raised money to fund the education of the children and provide them shelter and food. He said the children were free to leave the center as they pleased and with their families’ consent.
Now that the orphanage had been closed down, Matthew was worried that the children would not be able to go to school.
“And they called it a rescue when the kids were happy, healthy and eating? They were keeping our kids when they were supposed to be in school… That’s a rescue? They were not rescuing anybody, it’s a joke,” Matthew said.
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