Granted writ reunites Lumad father, daughter held under DSWD-7 custody

Mar. 13, 2021

Human rights lawyers Attys. Fionah Bojos and Magdalena Daymeg Lepiten with the detained Lumad student and her father. (Photo courtesy of Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – One of the Lumad students held at a facility inside the Social Welfare and Development Office in Region 7 and her father were reunited late afternoon on March 12.

It took about 24 hours before the DSWD-7 office released the 17-year-old female Lumad to her father whose Writ of Habeas Corpus he filed against the authorities was granted on March 11 by Judge Leah Geraldez of the Regional Trial Court Branch 20 in Cebu City.

The family belongs to the Subanun tribe and hails from Pitogo town in Zamboanga del Sur.

On March 9, Judge Geraldez summoned the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) represented by director P/BGen. Ronnie Montejo, director Rebecca Geamala of DSWD-7, and social worker Brenda Abilo of the Crisis Intervention Center of DSWD-7 to respond on the Writ of Habeas Corpus petition.

Habeas Corpus granted

However, the Court favored the parent of the Lumad child stipulating “it finds no factual and legal basis for the confinement of the minor at the DSWD VII Crisis Center.”

The writ is a safeguard against arrests made without warrants and illegal detention.

Police Chief Debold Sinas argued the parents of the Lumad child are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Pitogo town citing the report from PRO-7 Chief Montejo and the child is also a member of the NPA while joining the Bakwit School sheltered at the Retreat House inside the premises of the University of San Carlos Talamban campus.

In its assessment, according to the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network Cebu Facebook post, the Pitogo town Social Welfare and Development office declared the child’s father incapable of taking custody of his daughter since he last saw her when she was 14 years old. However, the SOS Network Cebu said the father last saw his daughter in Cebu in 2019.

The father made several attempts to fetch his daughter from the DSWD-7 facility in a span of two weeks, but the authorities, according to SOS Network Cebu in its Facebook post, were adamant to keep the child inside the DSWD facility and deployed four police cars, a SWAT car, seven uniformed police, and four members of Task Force Kasaligan. The school network accused the DSWD Central Visayas office as complicit to the alleged illegal actions and show of force by the law enforcers.

The child is one of the seven students left in Cebu while the authorities brought back home the 13 Lumad students who are minors to Talaingod, Davao del Norte in February.


The reunion of the father and daughter spelled victory for the Lumad struggle and to those who stand with them while malicious allegations and lies of the police and DSWD-7 should not keep any family apart, said the SOS in its post on March 12.

The Cebu for Human Rights, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBSP) Cebu chapter and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in Cebu represented the petitioner.

SOS Network Cebu thanked its members, religions organizations, lawyers, and all those who helped the father and daughter’s reunion and is hoping the same support can be extended to the remaining five children under the custody at the Crisis Intervention Center of DSWD, the whereabouts of the 13 other Lumad students sent back to Talaingod, in Davao del Norte, and the seven others of the Bakwit school facing trumped up charges.


In a statement on March 11, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Cebu has been worried on the trauma the children are going through since they were forcibly taken away from their shelter in Cebu on February 15.

Kim Vinzar Samiana, RSW, deputy director of CRC, said no words could describe the anguish and frustration of the father who was deprived of his right to be reunited with his daughter for several days since his appeal even until the Court granted his rights to take his daughter back.

“The recent action of PRO-7 and DSWD-7 is a blantant obstruction of justice which undeniably adds further harm to the Lumad child and his father,” said Samiana.

Adhere work ethics

Former DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo criticized the apparent lack of principled actions among the officials and social workers at DSWD office involved in the handling of the Lumad children as she reminded them citing the Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles that social workers must uphold social justice and human rights. “They should not be complicit in implementing ‘policies and practices [that] are oppressive, unfair, or harmful.’’’

Taguiwalo underscored the importance of adhering to orders of the courts as these are consistent with the law and in the best interest of the child.

For her part, former DSWD undersecretary Malou Turalde said, “We cannot allow the profession to be used for repression and conveniently weaponize social welfare and services against the perceived enemies of the state.” (

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