MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Friday, December 7, that 12 of the 14 minors found traveling with the group of former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, have returned to their families.
The DSWD returned the children to their parents on Wednesday, December 5, after Davao Regional Trial Court Branch 8 Presiding Judge Glenn Aquino ordered it.
Aquino said in his decision that the DSWD had “no authority or lawful basis to retain the children in its custody, let alone, to deprive the petitioners, who are the parents or lawful guardians of such children, of their custody and care.”
The parents of the children first tried to fetch them on Saturday, December 1, but were not able to do so, prompting them to file petition for a writ of habeas corpus “for the production and release of the living bodies ” of the children before the court on Monday, December 3.
Among those in custody of the DSWD were 12 girls and two boys.
The two boys, the DSWD, said, remained with the agency, pending the findings on the parental capability assessment report (PCAR). The Talaingod municipal social welfare office executed the report for use in child protection cases to assess the parents' capability of raising a child.
Should the parents fail the assessment, the report will recommend giving custody of the children to the nearest kin.
Meanwhile, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista said the DSWD would continue to coordinate with the children’ parents “to ensure that they will be provided with appropriate support and interventions.”
The children had been under the DSWD"s custody since Thursday, November 29, or since Ocampo, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, and 16 members of the National Solidarity Mission were arrested at a police-military checkpoint because of the presence of the minors in their convoy.
Police have since filed human trafficking, kidnapping, and child abuse charges against Ocampo's group. The group denied this, maintaining that the humanitarian mission in Talaingod was done to rescue the children. – Rappler.com