Christian church administrators cleared of child abuse in death of 2 Lumad infants

MANILA, Philippines — Citing a lack of evidence, a Davao City Court has dismissed child abuse charges against six administrators of a Christian church in Haran, Davao del Norte, which took in two Lumad infants who died in their refuge.

In a seven-page decision released Monday, Branch 12 Family Court Presiding Judge Dante Baguio said the prosecution had failed to prove that the six United Church of Christ administrators in Philippines intended to debase, degrade or belittle intrinsic worth and dignity. children as human beings.

“Not the slightest trace of evidence has been presented to show that the defendants were ill-motivated to facilitate and harbor the children under their shelter,” the court said.

He added that the prosecution had presented nothing that showed church administrators intended to abuse the two Lumad children, “other than the situation in the shelter which is not conducive to life. “.

Even with that finding, the court said there was no direct link between the shelter being “messy” and church administrators being responsible for the deaths of the two children.

The court also said no evidence was presented that church administrators did not immediately give medical treatment to sick children, which led to their deaths.

Further, the court said that at the time they fell ill and eventually died, infants were accompanied by their parents, who had the authority and duty to make decisions for their children.

“The prosecution has not demonstrated that the defendant interfered with or hindered the parents of the children concerned in the performance of their duties, or indeed prohibited them from carrying out this responsibility,” the court said.

With these findings, the court dropped the charges against Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Reverend Daniel Palicte, Ephraim Malazarte, Jong Monson, Lindy Trenilla and Grace Avila. The court also ordered the return of the bonds they had posted, worth 120,000 pesos each.

Alternative media Bulatlat describes the UCCP Haran complex as a “sanctuary” from the “militarization” of Lumad communities – a collective name for the indigenous people of Mindanao distinct from the Christian settlers and native Moros there.

The government attempted to shut down the shelter through a resolution adopted by the Davao Regional Council for Peace and Order in January 2020.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council in March 2021 froze three UCCP Haran bank accounts and property under the name Brokenshire Integrated Health Ministries Inc. after it allegedly found they were being used to fund terrorism.

UCCP Haran has been marked red by the government, with the state Philippine News Agency even saying in a report that the Lumads “are being exploited, tricked into joining anti-government protests, brainwashed into hating the government and soon to become members of the new Communist People’s Army.”

Some of the church administrators involved in the child abuse case also faced now-dismissed charges, such as Tequis, Trenilla and Monzon, which their lawyers described as “fabricated”. — with reporting by Kristine Joy Patag

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