“To the court’s mind, no specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the subject children’s intrinsic worth as a human being had been convincingly shown other than the situation in the shelter that is not conducive for living, thereby negating all the accused’s criminal liability under Section 10(a) of RA 7610.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – No child abuse.
A local court in Davao City issued this ruling on the charges against administrators of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines who accommodated children and their families seeking refuge in Haran, Davao del Norte.
In a decision dated June 13, Judge Dante A. Baguio of Regional Trial Court Branch 12-Family Court of Davao City granted the motion of the counsel of the defendants seeking the dismissal of the complaint for lack of evidence.
The defendants are UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction Area Bishop Hamuel G. Tequis, Rev. Daniel Palicte, Ephraim Malazarte, Lindy Trenilla and Grace Avilla.
The seven-page decision highlighted that “not a single shred of evidence was offered to show that the accused were impelled by any ill-motive in facilitating and accommodating the children under their shelter.”
Baguio added that the prosecution failed to establish in what capacities Tequis and others are to be held accountable on behalf of the UCCP-Haran in connection with the incidents.
“To the court’s mind, no specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the subject children’s intrinsic worth as a human being had been convincingly shown other than the situation in the shelter that is not conducive for living, thereby negating all the accused’s criminal liability under Section 10(a) of RA 7610,” Baguio added.
In April 2021, Tequis and five others were charged with two counts of child abuse on April last year. Tequis, Palicte, Malazarte, Trenilla and Avila were released on bail after a warrant of arrest was issued by the court last year.
Read: Bishop, 5 others face child abuse charges for providing sanctuary to Lumad children
Read: IP leader defends UCCP Haran, calls it ‘a second home’
The sixth defendant of the case, Jong Monzon, former secretary general of Pasakaday Salugpongan Kalimodan (PASAKA), reportedly surrendered to authorities in March this year and is now making false statements against his fellow Lumad in Mindanao.
The charges against them stemmed from the death of two Lumad children inside the UCCP-Haran complex where the Lumad had been taking refuge due to the intense militarization of their communities.
Read: Why the PH gov’t should leave Lumad sanctuaries alone
Read: ‘Is there no safe place for the Lumad?’
Baguio said that there is no evidence to convince the court that the “untidy condition” of UCCP-Haran is the responsibility of Tequis and others. He also said that there was no proof that Tequis and others failed to give immediate medical treatment to a sickly child, resulting in his death. In fact, Baguio continued that evidence would show that the institution or the accused took action to meet the needs of the Lumads.
“The fact that two children died inside the Haran cannot be attributable at once to those who manage the institution. By death alone, the court cannot conclude that there was failure to give medical treatment as science cannot hold or take life but it is God, to some belief,” Baguio said, adding, “evidence showed that the parents of the subject children were with them when the alleged incidents happened” and that it is the parents’ duty to protect their children’s rights.
Baguio said that the prosecution also “failed to show that the accused interfered or hindered the parents of the subject children in performing, or much more prohibiting them from doing this responsibility.”
Baguio also said that the untidy conditions inside UCCP-Haran is not one of the direct sources of COVID-19.
“In short, there was no evidence that would connect the death of the children inside the Haran whose cause was the virus (COVID-19) or fault would have been attributable to all the accused herein because of failure or neglect,” Baguio said. (RTS, RVO)