Custody of six of the 19 indigenous peoples (IP) children rescued at a retreat house in Cebu City last month will remain with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas said Tuesday.
In a statement, Sinas said the DSWD Regional Office 7 reiterated that until the appropriate psycho-social interventions are completed, social welfare officers will continue to take custody of the six children.
He added that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for Central Visayas also ensured custody of one of the six children, a 17-year old Subanon girl who was allegedly a regular New People’s Army (NPA) member when rescued by police and DSWD from the University of San Carlos Balamban Campus Retreat House last February 15.
Citing reports from Police Regional Office 7 director, Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, Sinas said both parents of the Subanon girl are reportedly members of the communist terrorist group in Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.
Sinas said PRO-7 is also validating reports that the 17-year old Subanon girl is herself a regular communist party member based on information from a former cadre.
The DSWD-Region 7 has maintained custody of the child and cited DSWD Standard Operating Procedures that before the turn-over of custody of children under their care, a “proper evaluation and assessment with the child must be undertaken, including the capacity of the parent, and not any other person, to take custody of the child”.
Of the 19 rescued children, 13 Ata Manobo minors have since returned to their hometown in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
Of the six children who remain under the custody of DSWD in Cebu City while awaiting their release to their respective parents — four are from Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, one from Columbio, Sultan Kudarat; and one is from Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.
Montejo said one of the seven respondents in the kidnapping and human trafficking charges filed by the police has signified intention to turn state witness.
Sinas said the suspect has sought the help of police authorities to find an independent lawyer who will represent her after she executed a written declaration to terminate the services of lawyers King Perez and Neil Relampagos of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Cebu as her counsel.
She separately signed a Legal Engagement Service for lawyer Joey Borinaga to represent her during the preliminary investigation.
Other respondents in the case for violation of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (Kidnapping with Serious Illegal Detention), Violation of Sec. 10, RA 7610 and violation of Section 4i, 4j, 4k and Section 9 of RA 9208 as amended by RA 10364 (Trafficking in Persons Act) were filed before the Provincial Prosecutors Office of Davao del Norte are: Benito Bay-ao, Segundo Melong, Esmelito Paumba Torebawan, Chad Ramirez Booc, Jomar Malique Binag, and Moddie Langayed Mansumuy-at.
Meanwhile, DSWD and PNP-WCPC personnel are assisting five Lumad parents from Lebak, Sultan Kudarat in completing documentation to take custody of their rescued children.