Updated March 12, 2021 6:36 p.m.
By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA — The Department of Social Welfare Department – Region 7 released the Lumad child in its custody days after the court granted the father’s habeas corpus plea on March 11.
The SOS Cebu team, along with the child’s father, gathered at the DSWD-7 office yesterday to facilitate the release of Mimi. However, the local DSWD refused to acknowledge the court order issued by the Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 20.
In an online press conference, this morning, March 12, Save Our Schools Network – Cebu Spokesperson Meg Lim narrated, “When Tatay and our team tried to let the police read the court order, they refused to read it and kept shouting about due process. The court order was the greatest representation of due process, and yet they decided not to respect it because it was not in their favor.”
Mimi, which is not her real name, is one of the Lumad children who were taken into custody by the local social welfare and development department after a raid of the Lumad bakwit (evacuees) school last Feb. 15 in University of San Carlos-Talamban in Cebu City.
Lim condemned the harassment of the Lumad’s father and of the SOS team.
The group said that such actions breach the mandate of the social welfare department as the agency does not have a legal basis in detaining the Lumad children, “It has been known that these children are constantly threatened to produce baseless accusations against the Bakwit School. Prolonged stay under the custody of this agency may inflict more trauma on the children,” the group said.
Former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, also a staunch rights activist, called on her colleagues to adhere to the court order, which is not only consistent with the law but is also in the best interest of the child.
“This is unacceptable. How can government social workers refuse to heed the orders of the court? Beyond the legal imperative, how can government social workers not empathize with the sufferings of the child and the father whose reunion has been blocked again and again?” said Taguiwalo in a statement.
She also cited the ‘Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles’ and that it should remind social workers to uphold social justice and human rights.
“They should not be complicit in implementing ‘policies and practices (that) are oppressive, unfair or harmful,” she added.
Direct contempt of court’s order
The father’s lawyer Regal Oliva, who is also the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ (IBP) Cebu Chapter President, demanded for the child’s release and mentioned that the failure to do so is a blatant disrespect of authority of the court.
“The DSWD is still in possession of the child, even with the order released by the court, ordering them to release her to the custody of the father. Then, up to now there is willful disobedience of the court’s order,” said Oliva.
As a response, the IBP Cebu City Chapter, together with human rights volunteers, filed a manifestation to the court calling for the sheriff to serve and implement the court order as issued the day before.
“The IBP Cebu Chapter has also manifested to the court that should there be any adverse [actions to the] decision of the court, it should be a direct contempt of the court. Because what the DSWD is doing now is really contemptuous,” added the lawyer.