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DSWD urged to probe abuses of detained kids

January 23, 2015 · 

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Manila, Philippines – A non-government organization has called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to investigate the conditions in detention centers for children, alleging that abuses have gone unpunished in many cases.

The People’s Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance (Preda) Foundation wrote DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman last Monday, expressing its willingness to go to her office the next day to air its concerns. Fr.-Shay-Cullen-300x273 (1)

Preda and Bahay-Tuluyan, another similar organization that rescues street children, made news recently when they were mentioned in the London-based Daily Mail expose about children being “caged” ahead of Pope Francis’ visit.

Soliman had flatly denied the Daily Mail report.

A report from the ABS-CBN website said Soliman had invited the two organizations to clarify the Daily Mail article.

“We at Preda are happy to accept your invitation. We are willing to go to your office tomorrow (Jan. 20),” wrote Preda executive director Francis Bermido Jr.

There was no reply from the DSWD.

On the day that Preda was supposed to go to Soliman’s office, Bermido said they again faxed the letter.

Until yesterday, Bermido said they haven’t received a reply from the DSWD.

“When I followed it up, I was told the letter was already in Ms. Soliman’s appointment secretary,” Bermido said in a telephone interview.

In the letter, Preda said it made no such claim or statement to the media that there was a roundup of street children for the papal visit.

“However the arrest of children and incarceration in these jail-like detention centers is nothing new. It’s a long-time problem and is a serious violation of children rights whenever it happens,” Bermido wrote.

Bermido wrote that Preda founder Fr. Shay Cullen and his foundation have taken custody of children as young as seven years old from Metro Manila’s detention centers, curiously named Bahay Pag-Asa.

“Last 8 January 2015, he (Cullen) together with our social worker went to the Paranaque Anti-Drug Abuse Council (Padac) building and took custody of a child approximately seven years and another older boy,” Bermido reported.

Preda, founded 40 years ago, was also given custody of four boys from Mandaluyong’s detention center, bringing to 35 the number of children now under its care.

“Preda has campaigned for the past 15 years to improve the condition of children in detention centers such as the Reception and Action Center (RAC) and other facilities now called Bahay Pag-Asa,” said Bermido.

Preda social workers have seen the conditions were children’s rights are violated daily, according to Bermido.

Aside from cases of torture and abuse reported to Amnesty International, Bermido said some children rescued by Preda claimed they were physically and sexually abused during detention.

“The children transferred to the Preda home have revealed the frequency and extent of how they were made to perform sex acts on older inmates and how often they were abused,” Bermido said.

“The Yakap-Bata is a case where DSWD funds were used to build cages for the children as seen in some of the photos of the Mail Online report,” he added.

Bermido decried that no one has been held accountable for the torture and abuses.

Two of the photos published by the Daily Mail had one starving child lying naked on the floor and a girl chained on the post.

Soliman said those photos were taken last year and had been addressed, but Bermido said nobody was punished.

“The cuffing of a child to a post is a crime and no one has been held accountable and many more such acts of abuse are on records. This is a long time continuing crime against children,” the Preda official said.

As a result of their actions, Preda social workers have been banned at the RAC. Fr. Shay and Fr. John Keenan are also barred from entering to celebrate
Mass.

Preda urged Soliman to close the detention centers or relocate the children “to a healthy environment with space for outdoor games, sports, freedom of movement and the human development programme.”

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