The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Thursday said it is willing to return children to the care of the Gentle Hands orphanage in Quezon City if it complies with the guidelines and addresses its alleged violations.
A cease and desist order had been issued against the orphanage for various reasons, including overcapacity and hygiene concerns.
"Yes, hindi natin inaangkin ang kustodiya ng mga bata. We want to make sure yung compliance ng safety nila," DSWD Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez said at the Laging Handa public briefing.
"The moment na [mag-comply sila], DSWD pa po 'yung magbabalik sa mga bata. Tutulungan po ulit natin sila ng sa ganoon ma-incorporate yung mga bata sa pagbabalik nila uli doon sa kanilang facilities. Maaring maari po as long as compliant na sila."
(Yes, we do not claim custody of the children, we want to ensure their safety. The moment the facility complis, the DSWD will return the children. We will help them so that the children can be incorporated when they return to the facilities. It may be possible as long as they are compliant.)
Lopez said that among the orphanage’s violations were overcrowding, hygiene concerns, and a lack of social workers.
He said some of the children were transferred to Elsie Gaches Village in Alabang, Nayong Kabataan in Mandaluyong, and another facility in Quezon City.
“So far ang mga bata maayos, nag-e-enjoy sila sa malalawak na fields, malalawak na playground dito. One thing nakikita namin baka mag-boost po yung kanilang enthusiasm at syempre mas mabilis yung adjustment nila sa bago nilang environment. Maayos ang ating mga kabataan, sila pinapakain, binibihisan, at may mga aktibidad na kasama na po,” he said.
(So far the children are fine, they are enjoying the wide fields, the wide playgrounds here. One thing we see is that maybe their enthusiasm will get a boost and of course their adjustment to their new environment will be faster. Our young people are doing well, they are fed, clothed, and have activities included.)
The DSWD official also said the presence of policemen during the rescue was for peace and order.
“Papaliwanag ko rin po bakit may pulis. Kasama sa mga hakbangin ng DSWD sa lahat ng aktibidades nito kasama ang emergency management plan. Hindi po pwede pagnagkagulo na saka tatawag ng pulis,” he said.
(I will also explain why the police are there. They are part of the initiatives of the DSWD in all its activities including the emergency management plan. It can't be that only when trouble kicks off that we call the police.)
“Aside po doon may mga ambulansya tayo roon kasi may isa silang bata na kailangan ng medical attention, may ambulansya po tayo roon, kasama po ito sa emergency planning po natin. Ayaw natin ma-caught off guard sa ginagawang pag-rescue sa mga bata,” he added.
(Aside from that, we also had ambulances there because they have a child who needs medical attention. This is also included in our emergency planning. We don't want to be caught off guard when rescuing children.)
He said they are also investigating allegations that children are missing from the orphanage.
“‘Yan ang tina-try namin makuha yung whereabouts. We recently believe na nasa facility sila somewhere in Bulacan. 'Yung ating regional director sa Region 3, kasi sa Bulacan po 'yan ay in close coordination na po para ma-check 'yung condition ng ating mga bata,” he added.
(We are trying to get their whereabouts. We recently believed that they are in a facility somewhere in Bulacan. Our regional director in Region 3 is in close coordination to check the condition of our children.)
The DSWD has given Gentle Hands 20 days to answer the issues that the agency has raised against them.
In an Unang Balita report by GMA Integrated News' Nico Waje, the orphanage's executive director, Charity Graff, said they were not initially notified about the concerns raised by the agency.
She also said they were not even asked by the agency about the fire concerns. — BM, GMA Integrated News