DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 December) — Thirteen of 14 minors that the group of Bayan Muna President Satur Ocampo supposedly “rescued” from alleged harassment by the paramilitary group Alamara last Wednesday (Nov. 28) and supposedly “rescued” from them by the military, police and social welfare office that same evening, have yet to be turned over to their parents.
Alma Acera, Project Development Officer of the Department of Social and Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office, said the children still have to undergo psychosocial intervention before they are turned over to their parents.
Thirteen out of the 14 ‘rescued’ minors — aged 14 to 17 — were transfered to DSWD shelters — two boys in Tagum City and 11 girls in the Home for Girls in Davao City.
A child from Talaingod was fetched by a parent before the rest were turned over to the DSWD, she said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Acera said only four of the 13 in the DSWD’s custody, are from Talaingod where the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) is operating. Two are from Zamboanga peninsula, some from Bukidnon and Arakan in North Cotabato.
Meggie Nolasco, executive director of Salugpongan, said high school students are allowed to stay at the boarding facility of the school since some of the students come from distant provinces.
Lawyer Joel Mahinay of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), the group’s counsel, said Lumads are not accustomed to the geographical boundaries of the cities and municipalities as they are spread across several areas in the mountains.
DSWD regional director Mercedita Jabagat said “aside from counseling session with the social workers, the personnel and military interviewed the children.”
Nolasco, among the Talaingod 18 accused of human trafficking, child abuse, and kidnapping, and freed on bail Saturday evening, accused the DSWD regional office of “detaining” the students.
Nolasco said the children’s parents went to the DSWD on Saturday but their children were not turned over to them.
“They didnot release them, they detained the children. That’s what we are working on now. They won’t even let the attorney see the children. What the DSWD is accusing us, they are the ones doing it. Even if the parents are with us, they won’t acknowledge the parents and their presence,” she said.
Acera said at least 10 parents reached out to the DSWD regional office on Saturday but they could not release their children pending the parental and community capability assessment report (PCCAR) of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office or the City Social Welfare and Development Office.
“Their parents visited them but they could not claim their children yet,” she said.
She said PCCAR is necessary to ensure that the children will be returned to their real families to avoid a repeat of the incident.
“We want to ensure that the parents are attested to by municipal and city social workers office through their PCCAR,” she said.
Once the requirements are complied with, Acera said they can immediately process the children for discharge to their parents but the minors can also stay at the center if they need to undergo another intervention by the social workers. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)