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DOJ: Writing to estranged dads for child support not in DSWD's mandate

Writing to fathers who have failed to give child support to remind them of civil and criminal consequences may be outside the mandate of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has said.

In a five-page legal opinion dated October 5, Remulla said the plan of the DSWD was outside its mandate under the Administrative Code of 1987 and the DSWD Citizens' Charter.

Remulla said the DSWD informing negligent fathers of possible “civil and criminal consequences if financial support is not properly given” can be likened to a demand letter.

He said it may also make it appear as if the DSWD is lawyering on behalf of the minors.

“Undoubtedly, the intention is noble; however, the act of doing so may be beyond the DSWD’s afore-quoted mandate for it may already constitute providing legal service to the minor child/children,” he said.

“Moreover, only the courts can legally compel those fathers to give financial support to their child/children pursuant to a case filed for that purpose,” he added.

DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo sought the agency’s opinion on whether the department can write a letter to a father indicated in a child’s birth certificate to remind him to that failure to give child support would result in corresponding civil and criminal consequences.

In October, the DSWD partnered with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to file complaints against estranged fathers. Tulfo had said that he would write to the fathers and urge them to support their children.

Remulla said the DSWD may assist minors who are not receiving financial support in seeking legal services.

“The DSWD may very well refer these matters to the PAO or other pertinent agencies or even to some organizations and/or institutions providing legal aid, so that their cases may be acted upon,” he said.

Remulla said that should the DSWD write letters to negligent fathers, the text should be “factual in nature without biases.”

He cautioned against using language that creates the impression that the DSWD is lawyering on behalf of the minors. —NB, GMA Integrated News