City government tells public to give ‘exposed’ minor privacy

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The Iloilo City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) on Thursday asked the public to refrain from publicized discussions of a minor at the center of a public exposure controversy over the previous weekend that went viral on social media.

Elizabeth Hechanova, the CSWDO’s focal person on the Local Council for the Protection of Children, said in a press conference that they have been tending to the minor, and asked media organizations and social media users to stop public postings and discussions of the matter.

“From now on, [we have to] stop the posting and discussions [about the issue] on public, in the media. We believe that [the media] has influence on the public awareness. We are asking for your help not to air the issue because they (minor) have been turned over and are now undergoing the helping process. […] We have to respect the process[,]” Hechanova stated.

Hechanova said that the minor is now undergoing a “helping process” with other city government offices and regional line agencies.

She added they are currently focusing on the “transfer of the [said] minor’s environment”, which includes refraining from sending them home in the meantime, as well as ‘wholistic’ interventions for the physical, mental, and other aspects of their personality.

“This issue is just a presenting problem that has been given to us, but we are tasked to dig out the underlying problems, the workable recommendations, in consultation and cooperation with [the minor] and [their] family,” she explained.

CSWDO chief Teresa Gelogo said that their goal now was to “restore [their] worth and dignity” and “revive [their] social function”.

“[They] are also a child, [they] are also human, who has feelings, and we need to respect that and recognize it[.] Whatever had happened, or what is going out on social media, is not worth it. Because they are also young, and we need to take note of that,” Gelogo said.

Authorities, aided by several radio stations based in Iloilo City, reached out to the minor who was seen in Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan earlier this week.

Lawyer David Garcia from the City Legal Office said those who have been sharing photos and videos of the incident online may not be criminally charged because there was no expectation of privacy on their part.

But he also noted that because the person involved is a minor, some is needed for their welfare.

“Court cases are supposed to have [a] public hearing, but when it comes to [the involvement of] minors, the doors close because it’s supposed to be confidential. In [their] case, they shouldn’t have shared that, but they themselves shared that. There is no expectation of privacy,” Garcia said.

“But supposed to be, since she is a minor, it shouldn’t have been spread. We have to see what the liability is for those who have shared it, because of the gray area that they are a minor,” he added.

Garcia also hinted at possible charges against the bar where the incident happened if the result of their investigation finds that the establishment is liable for what happened.

“If we see in the investigation that the bar has limited liability, then they can reopen. But if the investigation finds that the bar had been negligent during the time of the incident, then we will see what happens,” the lawyer said.

“Based on the bar’s explanation, […] they were just dancing, and there was nothing wrong with that, it’s expected in that kind of place. But the problem was that [they] started stripping. Based on the explanation of the establishment, they acted immediately, and then they also had a measure to ban her from the establishment and committed that such acts would not happen again,” he shared further.