DSWD double-checking tally of children from orphanage it shut down

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2023 03:24 PM

 Infants and children are loaded onto buses as the Department of Social Welfare and Development social workers conduct a rescue operation and takes custody of 120 infants and children housed at the Gentle Hands Orphanage in Quezon City on May 23, 2023 following a cease and desist order for alleged violations of the poor facility management that endanger the safety of children under their care. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News
Infants and children are loaded onto buses as the Department of Social Welfare and Development social workers conduct a rescue operation and takes custody of 120 infants and children housed at the Gentle Hands Orphanage in Quezon City on May 23, 2023 following a cease and desist order for alleged violations of the poor facility management that endanger the safety of children under their care. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News


MANILA — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Thursday said it was still accounting for 22 children from care establishment Gentle Hands, noting the number of those rescued did not match a spot monitoring last weekend.

DSWD Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez said authorities initially counted 149 children in the facility. 

But the agency only rescued 127 children, including one child who had to be sent to the hospital, he said. 

"Ina-account natin kung nasaan yung iba and we would like to know kung kailan ba nagkaroon ng transfer or napa-saatin ba ito?... but then kung sila rin nila ginawa na basta ilipat ang mga bata, it will be very ironic," Lopez said in a televised briefing. 

"We have a reason to believe nasa facility nila sa Bulacan pero we have to address... We are in close coordination para ma-check ang kondisyon ng ating mga bata," he added. 

(We are accounting for the others. We would like to know when they were transferred or were they put in our care. But then, if the orphanage transferred the children, it will be very ironic. We have a reason to believe they are in a Bulacan facility but we have to address... We are in close coordination to check the condition of the children.)

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Gentle Hands executive director Charity Heppner-Graff earlier told ABS-CBN News in a text message that there were only 115 children in the facility. 

ABS-CBN News is waiting for Graff's response on the supposed discrepancy between this figure and the DSWD tally. 

Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian said his agency issued a cease and desist order against Gentle Hands after social workers found that it was housing nearly double the maximum 80 children it was supposed to be taking care of. 

Gatchalian added that the fire exits were sealed, the facility was littered with trash, and the guard initially refused to let social workers inside. 

Graff was given 20 days to address the complaints against Gentle Hands, while the DSWD took the children to different facilities in the city.