Santiago, Villar call for investigation into abuse of street kids in gov’t shelters

By , on December 7, 2014

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Two senators are calling for a probe into the alleged abuse and mistreatment of street children in a shelter in Metro Manila.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Cynthia Villar have urged the senate to launch an investigation into the way street children are treated in shelters around the country, as well as look into the condition of these shelters, following reports that the shelters – particularly the Manila Reception and Action Center (RAC) – were more like a concentration camp than a sanctuary.

Santiago and Villar cried out against allegations that the children at the RAC are neglected or maltreated; referencing as proof a photo taken by an official of Bahay Tuluyan on October 12, which depicts a severely emaciated boy, identified only as “Frederico,” sleeping on a pavement of the RAC in Ermita, Manila.

The RAC said that they lacked the funding to properly care for the boy, and that he has since been moved to another youth center.

Because of the severity of the satiation at the RAC, a non-government organization (NGO) which champions children’s rights, has communicated with the administration of the city of Manila to either improve the conditions at the facility, or shut it down entirely.

The NGO Bahay Tuluyan has written letters to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and to Shiela Maria Lacuna-Pangan, head of Manilas social welfare department, to this end.

Senator Santiago likewise pointed out that the children at the RAC are not only allegedly malnourished and starved, but are also physically abused by the staff, and that bullying was commonplace among the children.

She cited a report of Bahay Tulungan, which said that a street child was beaten to death by some other street children in the care of RAC.

The senator also lamented the fact that the center is overcrowded; with as many as 400 children seeking shelter in the facility which was built to accommodate 100 only.

“It is imperative that further investigation be made to determine the veracity of reports of maltreatment and negligence at the center,” Santiago said, as she filed Senate Resolution No. 1033.

The center – which is operated by the Manila social welfare department. – is meant to serve as a halfway house for children who are rescued from the streets, or from abusive parents or guardians, or those taken in for vagrancy or misdemeanors.

Senator Villar stressed that the probe and hearing into the situation would enable Congress to collect facts and information as to the condition of not just the RAC, but also other shelters thorughout the country.

“Other than this study, there is little literature and data to be had on centers for children’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society, how and where they operate, the facilities these centers have, whether they are accredited by the DSWD, etc.,” Villar noted in Senate Resolution No. 1046.

“The data gathered and review will serve as a basis for future and further legislation concerning these rehabilitation centers for street children, abandoned, and neglected children, to regulate and improve their capacity to nurture and reintegrate the children back into society, and to prevent these and any forms of abuse and neglect from happening again,” she added.