DSWD investigates viral photos of child on leash

Mara Cepeda

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DSWD investigates viral photos of child on leash
(3rd UPDATE) The original owner of the photos posted has since deactivated her Facebook account

(Editors note: Rappler will no longer use the viral photo of the child on a leash to protect him from trauma in the future. An earlier version of this story blurred the photo of the child.)

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE)  – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is now investigating the case involving the photos of a child on a leash that went viral on Facebook Monday, May 25.

In the photos, the naked child being fed what appeared to look like dog food had a leash around the neck.

The photos were originally posted by a female user with the following caption:

Bago ko nga palang alagang aso. Ha! Ha! Lakas ng tama ng anak ko, sunod-sunuran naman. #dami kong tawa dito, grabe!” (Here’s my new pet dog. Ha! ha! My son looks high on drugs, doing as he is told. This really made me laugh.)

Another Facebook user, Inay Marcela, took a screenshot of the photos and expressed her disapproval at 9:51 am on Monday, May 25. Marcela’s post then went viral on social media.

Walang karapatan ang sino man na paglaruan ang isang bata. Ang sinumang gagawa nito maski mga sariling magulang ay [maaaring] maparusahan sa ilalim ng batas (No one has the right to treat a child like a toy. Whoever does this can be punished under the law),” said DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman in a statement sent to Rappler.

She said the photos are “a clear case of child abuse” and the perpetrator is liable under the Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) Act.

In a text message sent to reporters, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima agreed, saying, “If proven authentic, then we are looking at a case of gross child abuse which is punishable under RA 7610 (Anti-Child Abuse Law).”

The DSWD Field Office III has already located the whereabouts of the child’s mother. Soliman has given instructions for the rescue and temporary custody of the child.

The child will then undergo psychosocial assessment while DSWD will evaluate the mother’s capacity to take care of the child.

Meanwhile, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Virgilio Mendez said De Lima already asked them determine the identity of the mother.

“Yes, our Cybercrime Division is already working on that case,” said Mendez.

‘Masamang biro’

Marcela’s screencap of the original post has been shared by almost 79,000 Facebook users, who also expressed their displeasure over the photos.

Kahit nagbibiruan lang, masamang biro,” said Soliman about the post. “Hindi alam ng bata na binibiro siya.”

(Even if it was made in jest, it was done in bad taste. The child does not know that it was just a joke.)

Fake accounts?

At 8:26 am on Tuesday, May 26, the original owner of the photos posted on her account, saying: 

Less than two hours later, her account was deactivated.

However, several other Facebook pages bearing the same name were created on Tuesday morning as well. They contained what looked like screencaps of the female user’s original post. – Rappler.com

What are your thoughts on the photos? What do you think the DSWD should do? Join the conversation and send us a tweet @MovePH.

Editor’s note: We previously used a background file photo of a Reception and Study Center for Children in Zamboanga, which had nothing to do with the story. We apologize for the error and have made the necessary correction. 


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.