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Miscellaneous

Child whom GHI refused to release will finally reunite with mom after 4 months separation

Melanie Marzan
Ms. Melanie Marzan signs the discharge slip from the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) that grants the reintegration of child care for her baby who was temporarily under the care of Gentle Hands Inc. during the turn-over of custody on Friday (May 26).

A 20-month-old son, whose then pregnant mother was forced to place him on temporary custody with the Quezon City orphanage of Gentle Hands Inc. (GHI) in January this year, will finally be reunited with his biological mother through the assistance of the National Capital Region Field Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Baby Marzan will be reunited with his 27-year-old mother, Ms. Melanie Marzan, after the DSWD-NCR issued a Parental Capability Assessment Report (PCAR) that will facilitate the release of the child to his mother after more than four months of separation.

Baby Marzan was among the more than 140 children who were taken into custody by the DSWD from GHI after the Department issued a Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) issued on May 22, based on a complaint that the private orphanage has committed a violation of Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination.

On Tuesday (May 23), Baby Marzan and other children 7 years old and below were taken to the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) in Bago Bantay, Quezon City. The rest of the children from GHI were brought to Elsie Gaches Village in Alabang in Muntinlupa City and the Nayon ng Kabataan in Mandaluyong City.

Records show that on Jan. 30, 2023, Ms. Marzan placed her son in the temporary custody of GHI Quezon City childcare facility due to her pregnancy for her third child.

At the time, Ms. Melanie was unable to take care of Baby Marzan until she has given birth. On April 25, Melanie successfully gave birth to her third child at the World City Medical Center.

Melanie Marzan
Ms. Melanie reunites with Baby Marzan.

DSWD Spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez, said that after her discharge from the hospital, Melanie sought to get Baby Marzan back from GHI since the facility’s custody was only temporary and “the mother still exercises full parental control over son.”

On February 2, Melanie went to GHI in Project 4, Quezon City to visit her son but she was only allowed to see him for 10 minutes.

When Ms. Marzan requested to be reunited with her son, GHI informed her that it was not possible because the client had not yet stayed with the childcare facility for three months.

“Ms. Marzan’s plea fell on deaf ears. Gentle Hands, through its executive director Ms. Charity Graff, continue to illegally detain Baby Marzan for no justifiable and legal reason,” Asst. Secretary Lopez said.

The DSWD Spokesperson said that the continued refusal of Ms. Graff to release Baby Marzan to his rightful mother prompted Melanie to file a complaint before the Office of the President-Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OP-OCS) 8888 Citizens Complaint Hotline based in Malacanang compound.

Based on the 8888 complaint, the DSWD-NCR sought out Ms. Melanie and she underwent counselling through a social worker and her concern on Baby Marzan was communicated to GHI but there was no response from Ms. Graff.

The DSWD-NCR sent a letter to GHI addressed to Ms. Graff dated March 28, 2023 seeking clarification on the matter but the letter was ignored by the GHI’s executive director.

The DSWD Spokesperson said the actuations of Ms. Graff, Canadian citizen, who has been issued a working visa by the Bureau of Immigration, run counter to Filipino values which place importance on families, with young children not to be separated from their mothers and fathers.

“To blatantly deny Baby Marzan from the loving care of his mother, Melanie, contravenes the essence of a Filipino family and runs counter to the policies and principles, which the DSWD protects and promotes,” Asst. Secretary Lopez said.

The DSWD official maintained that Philippine laws are very clear that it is in the best interest of the child to be with his mother, unless declared otherwise by a court of law.

“Since there is no court order declaring Ms. Marzan unfit to be parent, then Gentle Hands has no right to refuse her request for the return of her son,” Asst. Secretary Lopez said.

The DSWD spokesperson said the Department is also looking into three or more similar cases involving children under the temporary custody of GHI.

“When the mothers requested the GHI for the return-custody of their children, the GHI refused to heed the mothers’ plea, similar to the case of Baby Marzan,” Asst. Secretary Lopez said.

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