DOJ tells Tulfo: Reminding fathers of financial obligation is outside DSWD mandate

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 25 2022 05:10 PM

MANILA — The Department of Justice has advised against Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo’s proposal to write to fathers to remind them of their obligation to support their children.

In a legal opinion signed by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla dated October 25, 2022, the DOJ said Tulfo’s plan is “outside the DSWD’s stated mandate, powers and functions” under the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 292) and the DSWD Citizen’s Charter 2022.

Under Tulfo’s plan, the DWSD’s letter would be addressed to fathers who are named in the children’s certificate of live birth. 

The purpose is to remind fathers to provide financial support to their minor children since “failure to do so has a corresponding civil and criminal consequences.”

But Remulla said the use of the phrase is problematic.

“The phrase ‘there are civil and criminal consequences under the law if financial support is not properly given’ in the proposed letter, can be likened to a demand letter to the recipient and make it appear that the DSWD is lawyering on behalf of the minor child/children,” he explained. 

Remulla acknowledged that while the goal is admirable, it is not the DSWD’s job to go after the fathers for financial support of their children.

“Undoubtedly, the intention is noble; however, the act of doing so may be beyond the DSWD’s afore-quoted mandate for it may already constitute providing legal service to the minor child/children, which function legally belongs in to some other agencies of the government, like the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO),” he said.

“Moreover, only the courts can legally compel those fathers to give financial support to their child/children pursuant to a case filed for that purpose,” he added.

Instead, Remulla advised DSWD to help minors by referring them to the Public Attorney’s Office, other government agencies, organizations or institutions that provide legal aid.

“Lastly, should the DSWD eventually consider writing a letter to the fathers of the minors, who are allegedly not receiving support, we strongly advise that the text of the letter that the text of the letter should only be factual in nature without biases, and caution against using language that creates the impression to the recipient that the DSWD is lawyering on behalf of the minors,” Remulla said.