Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Japan ignores appeal, sets to deport Filipino family

February 14, 2009

TOKYO: Japan on Friday ordered the parents of a 13-year-old Filipina to prepare to leave within two weeks, giving them a choice to leave their daughter behind or face deportation.

In a case closely followed by human rights activists, Noriko Calderon—who was born in Japan in 1995—has publicly appealed to authorities to let her family stay together.

Her parents entered Japan in the early 1990s with illegal passports and stayed in the country undetected until two years ago when her mother was arrested but later released.

Noriko has grown up speaking only Japanese and attending local schools. Japan, which imposes tight controls on immigration, is likely to allow her to stay to complete her studies.

“I have decided not to grant a special residential permit to the entire family,” Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, who oversees immigration, told reporters.

Friday was the deadline for the family’s temporary residential status.

Shogo Watanabe, a leading human rights lawyer handling the case, said the immigration bureau told the parents to decide by February 27 on the date to fly to the Philippines.

“We accept neither the deportation of the whole family nor sending back only the parents,” said Watanabe, who warned that the immigration authority could detain Noriko’s 36-year-old father if he refused to leave.

Out of options

The parents have refused to leave without their daughter but ran out of legal options when the Supreme Court in September last year rejected their appeal to stay in Japan.

“She is 13 years old,” the father, Arlan Cruz, Calderon told reporters. “She cannot survive or protect herself alone.”

Lawyer Watanabe said he would keep negotiating with the immigration authority to let the family stay at least until the girl graduates from middle or high school.

About 500 families were in the same situation as the Calderons, according to Watanabe, who has accused Japan of not respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Japan, with a falling birth rate and shrinking population, is considering allowing more foreign workers but has long rejected wide-scale immigration.
–AFP

Scarred Souls, Lost Innocence: Stories of Children Victims of Human Rights Violations

December 31, 2008

At first glance, they looked like ordinary children. But deep within them are scarred souls and lost innocence because they are children-victims of human rights violations. On December 9, they went to see the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy to tell her their tragic stories.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

(Bulatlat.com)

Seventeen-year old Jerome (not his real name) comes from Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. On March 23, 2007, at around 9 a.m., Jerome and his five cousins were on their way home from a nearby village when they heard gunfire. They immediately ran for cover.

When the gunfire ceased, they came out from hiding. Jerome said he saw soldiers armed with long rifles, three 6 x 6 military trucks and an armored personnel carrier. The soldiers belong to the 29th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA).

The soldiers asked Jerome and his cousins where their firearms were. All of them said they did not have any gun. The soldiers told them, “Hindi, mga NPA talaga kayo.” (No. You are really members of the New People’s Army.)

Jerome related, “Natatakot ako, umiiyak ako.” (I was so afraid; I was crying.)

He said the soldiers repeatedly asked them questions like: “How long have you been in the service as NPA fighters?” “Who are your companions?” “What are the names of your comrades?”

Jerome said they insisted that they are not members of the NPA. The boy explained to the soldiers that he was just helping his parents in the field.

Jerome quit school after finishing Grade 3 to help in the farm.

Jerome and his cousins, all of whom are minors except one, were brought to the headquarters of the 29th IB and detained there for almost two weeks.


Children join the protest commemorating the International Human Rights Day in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

The children’s families only learned about their arrest when notified by a tricycle driver. Their parents immediately went to the military camp but the children were not released to them. Jerome said his mother was crying while pleading for his release but the soldiers refused to set him free.

On March 27, five of the children, including Jerome, were presented to members of the local media in Cagayan de Oro City. They were introduced as child soldiers of the NPA. He said the soldiers placed long firearms, materials for making a land mine and medicines on the table in front of them.

Again, Jerome and the children told the media they are not child soldiers and they know nothing about the NPA.

The next day, the children were brought to Manila for a press conference.

Jerome could not identify the exact location but said he saw several policemen and members of the media. They were presented as child soldiers of the NPA who were arrested by the military.

Again, the children said they are not NPA fighters. He related that members of the media and the soldiers just laughed at them because they could not speak fluently in Tagalog.

They were released to their parents only on April 2.

Witnessing a father die

On April 29 this year, at around 10:15 p.m., Junior, 14 years old, his siblings and parents were sleeping when they were awakened by gunfire. Their house at Sitio Kahusayan, Manuel Guiangga, Tugbok District, Davao City was being strafed by bullets.

Junior’s younger sister peeked outside and, through the light generated by sparks of lightning, saw the armed men wearing Task Force Davao armbands. Elements of the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) under the 101st Brigade of the Philippine Army wear such bands.

After the shooting, Junior’s father was found wounded and soaked in his own blood. His mother and two sisters, four years old and eight years old, were also wounded. Junior was unhurt.

Junior said they carried their father, with the help of some neighbors, on the way to town. They walked for three hours. Junior’s father died along the way due to severe loss of blood.

The boy said that before the incident, his father, a leader of the tribal group Bagobo-Klata, refused to sell their piece of land to Apollo Quiboloy who owns the prayer mountain near their place. Junior said the village captain of Tamayong, Greg Canada, was pressuring his father to sell their land to Quiboloy.

After the incident, the villagers left the place and went to a banana plantation at the adjacent village. “Hindi na makapunta sa taniman ang mga tao, kumakain na lang ng saging.” (The people could not go to their farm, they just ate bananas.)

Since then, Junior’s family has been staying at the house of a relative.

He said all he wanted is to attain justice for the death of his father.

A victim of sexual abuse

If Junior lost his father, their home and livelihood, 15-year old Ivy lost her innocence.

Ivy came from Surigao City. On January 14 this year, Ivy went to the house of her classmate to borrow a book. She was in third year high school then.

At around 7 p.m., Ivy passed by the village’s day care center near the military camp of the 30th IBPA

Ivy related, “May humila sa braso ko, mag-uusap lang daw kami…May mahabang baril siya, natakot ako.” (Somebody grabbed my arm, he said we would just talk…He had a long firearm, I got scared.)

Ivy continued, “Dinala niya ako sa loob ng day care center, pinasok sa CR at hinawakan ang maseselang bahagi ng katawan ko.” (He took me inside the day care center, then to the comfort room where he touched my private parts.)

The young girl told the man, “Sir, maawa na po kayo sa akin. Ang bata-bata ko pa.” (Sir, have pity on me. I am still so young.)

Ivy recalled the man saying,“Wag kang mag-alala, pakakasalan kita. Magagawa ko lahat dahil sundalo ako, may baril ako, kayo wala.” (Don’t worry, I will marry you. I can do everything because I am a soldier, I have a gun while you don’t have any.)

After a while, Ivy said the man allowed her to go home. When the man saw many people outside the day care center, he grabbed Ivy again, pushed her against the wall and touched her private parts again.

Ivy went home crying. She could not sleep that night. Then, she received a text message from the soldier. She said the soldier managed to get her number from her friend.

Ivy said the soldier said, “Pumunta ka rito, uulitin natin ginawa natin kanina. Kung di ka pupunta, papatayin ko mga magulang at mga kaibigan mo.” (Come here, let us do it again. If you do not come, I will kill your parents and your friends.)

Out of fear, Ivy went back to the day care center. She was raped.

After the incident, Ivy said she cried, traumatized by what happened to her. She did not immediately tell her mother about the incident because of fear. On January 20, when her mother finally learned about the abuse, they immediately filed a rape case against Private First Class Reynaldo Pagios of the 30th IB.

When they confronted Pagios, Ivy said, the soldier had the gall to tell her, “Eh ikaw ang gumahasa sa akin.” (You were the one who raped me.)

Ivy said Pagios refused to attend the hearings.

The girl said they were also threatened by Pagios through text messages. “Pasasabugin daw bahay namin.” (He said he would bomb our house.)

Ivy said soldiers also told the public that the rape case was just a show orchestrated by the NPA to discredit the military.

Gusto kong makita na nakakulong siya,” (I want to see him behind bars.) said Ivy of Pagios.

Kapag nakakakita ako ng naka-unipormeng sundalo, natatakot ako. Mapagsamantala sila. Porke may mga baril sila, nagagawa nila gusto nila,” (When I see soldiers in uniform, I feel scared. They are opportunists. Just because they have guns, they do whatever they please.) Ivy said.

Being shot at

Janice, 17 years old, was with her mother when they first got caught in the middle of a military operation being conducted by the 17th IBPA on January 21, 2007 in Baggao, Cagayan Valley.

Janice related, “Sunday iyon, 1 p.m., kasama ako ng nanay ko sa taniman ng yellow corn. Hinahawan namin ang mga damo. Bandang 1:30 p.m., may narinig kaming putukan. Nagtakbuhan kami para magtago.”(It was a Sunday, 1 p.m. I was with my mother at the yellow corn plantation. We were clearing the weeds. At around 1:30 p.m., we heard gunfire. We ran for cover.)

Some 23 families in their sub-village went to the two nearby subvillages to seek refuge. After three hours, Janice and ten neighbors went back to their homes, thinking that the soldiers have left.

Janice said,“Umuwi kami para kumuha ng gamit sa school at magpakain ng alagang hayop.” (We went home to get our things for school and to feed the animals.)

While waiting for their companions, Janice said they heard gunfire. Minutes later, she felt her thigh bleeding. Her friend Katrina was also wounded.

She recalled,“Nanginginig na ako, napahandusay sa daan, punong-puno na ng dugo.” (I was shivering, I fell to the ground bleeding profusely.)

She continued, “Dinaan-daanan lang kami ng mga militar.” (The soldiers did not bother to help us.)

It was only at around 5 p.m. when neighbors managed to bring them to the nearest hospital. By 2 a.m., they were transferred to a hospital in Tuguegarao City and were confined there for three days.

Days after the incident, Janice said, she heard soldiers being interviewed over the local radio station, accusing them of being NPA fighters and threatening to file rebellion charges against them.

A community threatened

Fourteen-year old Joy had a different story. Joy comes from Sitio Bermuda, Bgy. Nabuk in Compostela Valley.

On May 2 this year, at around 10 a.m, soldiers from the 28th IBPA arrived at their sub-village. Joy was then manning the cooperative store of their community. The soldiers asked her, “May NPA bang bumibili ng softdrinks dito?” (Do NPA guerrillas buy soft drinks here?)

She replied that the last time they saw NPA fighters was a month ago. The soldiers told her, “Sinungaling ka! Kahapon lang narito sila.” (You’re a liar. They were here yesterday.)

The soldiers then asked for water. Joy replied that she would have to fetch water first. A soldier replied, “’Pag NPA humihingi, bibigyan n’yo agad.” (If the NPA ask for water, you immediately give them water.)

Joy said a resident who just bought rice for the cooperative was held by the military who accused him of giving rice to the NPA. Joy said she also saw a soldier point a gun at her nine-year-old cousin. When the boy’s mother came to get her son, the soldiers said the child is a member of the NPA. The mother asserted her right to get her son.

Joy also said that her uncle was mauled by soldiers. “Nilagyan ng cellophane at ng kaldero and ulo niya.” (The soldiers suffocated him with a plastic bag and a cooking pot.)

On May 12, the soldiers went back to the community. They warned the residents that they would be killed if they saw NPA fighters in the area.

At around 4 p.m., Joy said, they heard gunshots. Upon hearing the shots, some 58 families decided to evacuate from the place immediately.

Joy related,“Bandang 9 p.m., umalis kami sa lugar para pumunta sa Valma, 3 a.m. kami nakarating. Kahit ang mga matanda at bagong panganak, nakapaglakad dahil sa takot.” (We left our place at around 9 p.m. and arrived at Valma by 3 a.m.. Even the old and those who just gave birth were able to walk because of fear.)

They slept by the road. Hours later, they were transferred to the town’s gymnasium and stayed there for three days. Then, they transferred to Davao City, at the Bangkerohan village and stayed there for one month.

It was only by June 17 that they came back to their place. “Wala na ang mga hayop, pati mga tanim. May mga nawawalang gamit sa bahay. Sa coop, ubos ang paninda.” (All our farm animals were gone even our crops. We lost some belongings from our homes. All the items for sale at the cooperative were also gone.)

Children’s rights violations

Jerome, Junior, Ivy, Janice and Joy are but five of the 948 children victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration, which were monitored by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

In its report, the CRC said that from 2001 to 2008, 66 children were killed, 49 were victims of frustrated killing, 50 were tortured, five were raped, four were forcibly disappeared, and 55 were illegally arrested and detained. The NGO also estimated that about two million individuals, including children have been affected by forced displacement due to armed conflict.

The CRC said the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is the main violator of children’s rights, whether in situations of armed conflict or not.

Nang magbalikwas ang bata

December 15, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda


Sa harap ng matinding pandarahas, di-nangingimi at kusang lumalahok sa panlipunang pagbabago ang mga bata. (KR Guda)

PAYAT pero makisig si Jerome (di tunay na pangalan) para sa isang 17 anyos na bata. Palibhasa’y tulad ng napakaraming kabataan, maaga siyang nagtrabaho sa bukid. Mga magsasaka sa Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur ang kanyang pamilya.

Karaniwang araw lang sana para sa kanila ang Marso 23, 2007 nang maganap ang di-makalimutang pangyayari. “Galing kami sa kabilang baryo (nagsaka), pauwi,” sabi ni Jerome.

Kasama niya ang mga pinsang pawang mga menor-de-edad, at ilang kabaryong nagtrabaho noon sa bukid. Habang naglalakad, nagulat sila sa malakas na putukan. Napadapa si Jerome at ang iba pa. Tantiya nila, may naganap na engkuwentro sa pagitan ng rebeldeng New People’s Army (NPA) at mga sundalo.

Nakalublob pa sila sa mga damuhan nang, tamang tama, dumaan ang mga sundalo ng 29th Infantry Battalion ng Philippine Army. Ikinagulat ng mga magsasaka ang mga sundalo. Sino ba naman ang hindi: tatlong 6×6 na trak at isang armored personnel carrier ang sumalubong sa kanila.

Nakalublob sila sa mga damuhan – sapat na itong pruweba para sa mga sundalo na mga NPA sina Jerome. Sa kabila ng mga pagtanggi, pinaratangan sila ng mga sundalo bilang mga miyembro ng NPA. “Tinadyakan sa tagiliran ‘yung pinsan ko,” sabi niya. Isinakay sila sa APC, at dinala sa kampo ng naturang yunit ng militar.

Apat na araw na ikinulong ng mga sundalo si Jerome, ang mga pinsan niya at mga kasamahan. Di pinayagan ang mga kaanak nila na makita sina Jerome. Sa ikaapat na araw, laking gulat na lamang nila nang iprisinta sila sa isang press conference ng midya. Ayon sa militar, mga NPA daw sila. Mga batang-batang rebelde. Mga “child soldier“.

Naulit ito kinabukasan. Dinala ng mga sundalo sina Jerome sa Maynila, at sa isang presscon, muling pinakilala bilang batang mga rekrut ng mga rebelde – patunay raw sa kalupitan ng NPA sa mga bata.

Paris Principles

Tunay ngang pinagmalupitan si Jerome. Pero sa pagkakataong iyon, hindi mga rebelde kundi mga militar ang nagmalupit.

Kung isasaalang-alang ang tinaguriang Paris Principles na nilagdaan ng 58 miyembro ng United Nations (UN) noong Pebrero 2007 na siyang nagsisilbing international guidelines para sa paglahok sa mga bata (edad 17 anyos pababa) sa armadong tunggalian, maaaring maituring ngang “child soldier” o batang sundalo si Jerome. Kung nga sumusuporta ang komunidad niya sa Agusan del Sur sa mga rebelde, maituturing ngang batang sundalo na siya sa ilalim ng Paris Principles.

Ang Paris Principles ang tinutuntungang pamantayan ngayon sa daigdig hinggil sa mga bata ng armadong tunggalian. Nakabatay sa pag-aaral ni Graca Macel noong 1996, nakasaad sa mga prinsipyong ito na maituturing na batang sundalo hindi lamang iyong mga batang direktang inarmasan at kalahok sa armadong pakikipaglaban, kundi pati iyong di-armado pero may tungkulin sa kabuuang armadong kilusan. Sa deklarasyong “Cape Town Principles” ni Macel, pinakahulugan ang terminong “child soldier” bilang indibidwal na “may edad na mababa sa 18 anyos na bahagi sa regular o iregular na armadong puwersa o armadong grupo sa kanyang kapasidad bilang, pero di nakalimita sa pagiging, cook, porter, tagadala ng mensahe at sinumang sumasama sa mga grupong ito maliban sa mga miyembro ng pamilya.”

Sa pagsusuri ni Prop. Judy Taguiwalo at ng mga iskolar ng Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (Contend), napag-alamang halos buung-buong nakabatay ang Cape Town Principles pati na ang Paris Principles sa maraming karanasan ng batang sundalo sa Africa.

Sa pag-aaral na itong pinamagatang “Uncounted Lives Once More: The Paris Documents and Children of Communities in Struggle,” binatikos ng Contend ang Paris Principles na tinataguyod ngayon ng UN. Anila, masyadong simplistiko ang naturang dokumento dahil nakabatay lamang ito sa karanasan ng isang lugar kung saan maraming armadong grupo na namumuwersang magrekluta ng mga batang sundalo. Sinabi ng Contend na hindi aplikable ang dokumentong ito sa mga lugar tulad ng Pilipinas kung saan “boluntaryong sumusuporta ang mga bata sa isang konteksto ng insurhensiyang nakabase sa komunidad” tulad ng NPA.

Dahil hindi napag-iba ng Paris Documents ang karanasan ng Africa sa karanasan ng mga bansang tulad ng Pilipinas, lalong inilalagay nito sa peligro ang mga bata. Una, kapag nabansagang “child soldier” ang batang di-armado pero sumusuporta sa NPA (sa mga pamamaraang maliban sa pag-aarmas), maaari na itong matarget ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bilang kaaway nito sa giyera. Halimbawa nito ang kaso ng siyam-na-taong si Grecil Buya noong 2007 na matapos mapaslang ng Philippine Army sa Timog Mindanao ay ipinalabas ng Army na isang 12-taong-gulang na batang sundalo ng NPA.

Nabaril na, pinagbintangan pa

Sa Baggao, Cagayan noong Enero 2007, naging matindi ang operasyong militar ng 17th Infantry Battalion ng Army laban sa NPA. Nagsilikas ang sibilyang mga residente. Pero sa pagitan ng mga operasyon, pinilit na bumalik ng ilan. Kasama na dito ang 16-anyos na si Janice, at ilang kaibigan niyang kaeskuwela at dalawang nakatatanda.

Pero naabutan sila sa kalsada ng militar. Walang warning shot, agad silang pinaulanan ng bala. Agad na tinamaan si Janice at ang kaibigan sa binti. “Tumatakbo ako, pero hindi ko agad namalayan na may sugat ako,” kuwento ni Janice sa Pinoy Weekly. “Pagtingin ko sa binti ko, puno na ng dugo. Nanghina na ako.”

Tinakbo sila sa ospital na malayo sa kanilang baryo. Kinabukasan, habang nagpapagaling sa ospital, nabalitaan na lamang nilang itinuring na silang “sugatang mga rebelde” ng Army sa ulat nito sa radyo.

Sa pagbibintang sa kanila bilang mga rebelde, ayon sa Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), pinalalabas ng militar na lehitimong nabaril sina Janice. Ito mismo anila ang mapanganib sa Paris Principles: sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalawak ng kahulugan ng “child soldier”, lumalawak din ang saklaw ng mga “lehitimong” target ng ginagamitan ng armadong puwersa ng gobyerno.

Bukod dito – at pinakamalubha, ayon sa pagsusuri ng Contend – ay ang pagtanggi ng Paris Principles sa karapatan ng mga bata na lumahok sa makabuluhang pagbabago ng kanilang mga kalagayan sa komunidad at lipunan. Sa maraming pagkakataon, boluntaryong aktibong lumalahok ang mga bata sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan dahil nakikita nila, kahit sa murang edad, na makatarungan ang labang nilalahukan.

Nasa preambulo mismo ng 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan na bumalikwas laban sa tiraniya,” ayon sa Contend. “Lumalabas na kumbinyenteng binabalewala ng Paris Documents ang karapatan ng taumbayan na palayain ang sarili laban sa panunupil – isang legal na prinsipyong kiniklala sa daigidig para sa mga kilusan para sa pambansang kalayaan.”

Maging si Graca Machel, ayon sa Contend, ay kumilala sa karapatan ng mga bata na lumahok sa panlipunang pagbabago. Sinipi nito ang sinulat ni Machel: “Sa kabilang banda, mahalagang sabihin na maaari ring yakapin at lumaban para sa panlipunang mga tunguhin, relihiyosong ekspresyon, pagpapasya sa sarili o pambansang kalayaan ang mga bata. Tulad ng nangyari sa South Africa at iba pang okupadong teritoryo, maaari silang lumahok sa pakikibaka para sa pampulitikang kalayaan.”

Kuwestiyon sa Paris Principles

Sa pakikipagdiyalogo kamakailan ng Pilipinong mga grupong tagapagtaguyod ng karapatan ng mga bata tulad ng CRC sa pecial representative of the UN Secretary General for children and armed conflict na si Radhika Coomaraswamy, lumalabas na tali ang UN sa implementasyon ng Paris Principles. Kung kaya, inaasahang sisingilin nito ang dalawang rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa bansa – ang Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) at ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – sa di pagtupad sa istriktong istandard ng Paris Principles.

Ilang beses nang tumugon ang NDF sa akusasyong pilit na nagrerekluta ito ng mga bata para sa NPA. Anila, taong 1988 pa nang unang idineklara ng NDF sa mga puwersa nito na kailangang 18 anyos pataas ang lahat ng maaarmasan sa ilalim ng NPA. Sa bahagi naman ng MILF, mariing itinatanggi ni Atty. Musib Buat, abogado ng grupo, ang akusasyon ng Armed Forces of the Philippines na may mga batang mujahideen sa kanilang hanay.

Ang ibig sabihin kasi ng ‘kampo’ sa amin ay komunidad. Halimbawa, ang Kampo Abubakar (kampo ng NILF noong panahon ng gobyernong Estrada) ay isang komunidad. Kaya may mga bata riyan,” sabi ni Buat.

Sa mga komunidad na saklaw ng NDF at MILF, pasok sa kategorya ng mga “di aktibong lahok sa armadong digmaan pero tumutulong sa armadong mga grupo” ang mga bata rito. Pero kapwa nila idinidiin na hindi “batang sundalo” ang mga ito hangga’t hindi nag-aarmas.

Sa kabilang panig, inakusahan ng CRC ang gobyernong Arroyo at AFP na pangunahing tagapaglabag ng karapatan ng mga bata. Sa nasabing diyalogo kay Coomaraswamy, inihapag ng CRC ang kaso nina Jerome at Janice bilang patunay ng malay na pagtarget ng AFP sa mga bata sa giyera nito kontra insurhensiya.

Kabilang pa sa iprinisinta ang mga kaso nina: (1) Junior, 13 anyos, miyembro ng tribong Bagobo Klata sa Davao del Sur, na nawalan ng ama matapos paulanan ng bala ng militar ang kanilang bahay; (2) Ivy, 14-anyos sa Compostela Valley, na kabilang sa pinagbantaan at inakusahan ng mga militar na tagsuporta ng NPA kung kaya lumikas kasama ang mga kabaryo; at (3) Joy, 15-anyos na tatlong beses na hinalay ng isang sundalong nagbanta sa kanyang pamilya at nagsabing “wala kang magagawa dahil sundalo kami at may baril kami.”

Sa mga kasong ito, malinaw ang pagkabiktima ng mga bata sa kamay ng mga sundalo ng gobyernong Arroyo. Pinagmalupitan sila ng mga puwersang dapat sanang mangangalaga sa kanilang mga karapatan. Sa mga kalagayang ito, hindi na marahil nakakapagtaka ang kagustuhan maging ng mga bata na lumahok sa rebolusyonaryong mga kilusan – sa pamamagitan ng pagtulong dito kahit na hindi pa sila puwedeng humawak ng armas.

PinoyWeekly

2 more robbery suspects gunned down by police

December 9, 2008

By ARIS R. ILAGAN

Police operatives yesterday gunned down two more suspected members of the Waray-Waray bank robbery gang during follow-up operations in Caloocan City in the wake of the bloody firefight between their alleged cohorts and lawmen in Parañaque City last Friday.

In his report to Director General Jesus Verzosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, Director Leopoldo Bataoil of the National Capital Region Police Office said elements of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group shot it out with gang members along Kalye Libis in Caloocan City around 3 a.m.

Chief Supt. Raul Castañeda, CIDG director, said the killing of the two suspected Waray-Waray members was a follow-up to the bloody gunbattle in Paranaque City that resulted in the killing of 12 other suspects.

The slain suspects in Caloocan remained unidentified as of press time.

Castaneda said the two were part of a five-man gang who were allegedly planning to rob a rice warehouse in Antipolo City which was supposed to take place around 8 p.m. last Sunday. Police did not say why the robbers did not push through with their plans.

Instead, the suspects reportedly proceeded to Kalye Libis in Caloocan City where they were spotted by police agents.

On board a blue Honda Accord, Castaneda said the suspects apparently noticed that they were being tailed by a team from the National Capital Region Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit led by Senior Supt. Isagani Nerez which prompted them to fire shots at the lawmen.

Two of the suspects were killed in the first volley of gunfire while the three others managed to escape by jumping into a deep ravine, police said.

Recovered from the scene were an M-16 baby Armalite, a caliber .45 pistol, several spent shells and the Honda Accord which was believed to have been stolen by the suspects.

Nerez expressed belief that the Waray-Waray group and the Ozamis City gang resorted to swapping of members in conducting robbery operations during the Christmas season.

Child rights group cries for justice in death of De Vera girl

By ELLALYN B. DE VERA

Child rights advocates yesterday called for justice for the seven-year-old girl who was slain in a shootout between police operatives and robbery suspects in Parañaque City last Friday night.

The Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns and its member-organizations led by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) expressed outrage over the killing of Lea Alyanna De Vera and her father Alfredo who were caught in the crossfire between the police and alleged robbers in Sucat, Parañaque City.

Sixteen persons, including a police officer and five civilians, were killed during the incident.

The CRC called for an immediate and impartial investigation to give justice to the innocents killed.

CRC executive director Ma. Esmeralda Macaspac, whose group provides psycho-social help for child victims of human rights violations and their families, said truth is very important for the surviving relatives to cope with the violent death of their loved ones.

“Knowing the truth means one step closer to gaining justice and gaining justice a big leap to healing,” Macaspac said.

Human Rights chairperson Leila De Lima last Saturday ordered the immediate investigation of the killings to check on possible human rights violations during the police operations.

“We extend our condolences with Alyanna’s mother and join her in her call for justice for the death of her loved ones,” Salinlahi spokesperson Alphonse Rivera said.

He said the news is particularly distressing especially since the human rights community will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tomorrow, December 10.

“It is indeed alarming to note that our children are not safe from human rights violations. Whether they are in the countryside or in the cities, state forces should always keep in mind the respect for human life, especially children,” Rivera pointed out.

The children’s rights and welfare group expressed confidence that the government will look closely into the incident and not allow it to end up like other cases of children whose rights have been violated.

Likewise, Rivera said the state forces should be held accountable over their actions.

“In many instances, such cases end up with an excuse that it is either a legitimate operation or that the victim is unfortunately part of collateral damage,” Rivera stressed.

“This has always been the military’s excuse even prior to proper investigations which later prove that they should be made accountable. Maybe the PNP will be human enough to admit and accept accountability should investigations show that they are culpable,” he added.

Laban ng batang Kabute

October 21, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

SA UNANG bahagi ng maikling bidyo ng Southern Tagalog Exposure na pinamagatang “Batang Kabute,” masayang naglalaro ang isang kulumpon ng mga bata sa isang pawang maliit na subdibisyon. Ilang minuto rin ang silip sa espesyal na mundo ng yaong mga hindi pa pinatatanda ng mga reyalidad ng panahon. Nga lamang, biglaang mapuputol ang eksenang ito. Ang kasunod, natutulog na ang isang hilera ng mga bata sa isang abalang bansa.

“Ang bawat bata ay may karapatan sa disenteng tahanan,” (Every child deserves the right to a decent home) sabi sa katapusan ng bidyo.

Ito ang mensaheng ipinaaabot sa madla ng halos 300 bata na naninirahan sa Sityo Kabute, Brgy. Real, Calamba City, Laguna. Nanganganib na mapalayas ang 150 pamilya sa tatlong ektaryang lupain na inookupahan na nila ng tatlong dekada.

Banta ng demolisyon

Enero ngayong taon, bila na lamang dumating ang mga tauhan ng Metrobank na nag-aangkin sa lupain. Sinamahan sila ng mga miyembro at Swat ng pulisya at kahit walang mga dokumento, inutusan ang mga residente na baklasin ang kanilang mga tahanan. Walang kaalam-alam noon hinggil sa kanilang mga karapatan, napilitang sumunod ang mga ito.

“Siyempre, matatakot ka sa oras na tuktukin ng baril ang bahay mo,” sabi ni Melecia Almario, board of director ng Samahan ng Sityo Kabute.

Isang linggong mala-impiyernong pamumuhay sa basketball court ang dinanas ng mga residente. Lumapit sila sa bise-alkalde ng siyudad, na nagturo naman sa kanila sa party-list na Bayan Muna. Hinikayat ng Bayan Muna ang mga ito na bumalik at igiit ang paninirahan sa sityo.

Ngunit noong Setyembre 11, naglabas ng demolition order si Calamba Regional Trial Court Judge Alberto Serrano. Ligalig muli ang komunidad.

Sa ngayon, kalunos-lunos na ang kalagayan doon, ani Almario. Pinagtagpi-tagping sako, karton, at tolda na lamang ang kisame at dingding ng ginibang mga bahay na bato. “Kapag umulan, tumutulo ang tubig,” aniya, dahilan kung bakit nagkakasakit ang maraming bata. Noong Oktubre 8 lamang, namatay sa bronchopneumonia ang limang buwang sanggol ng residenteng si Myrna dela Cruz.

Di makapag-aral

Noong Oktubre 11, nagsagawa ng benefit concert sa Ten02 Bar sa Quezon City ang STExposure at Bayan Muna- Southern Tagalog para sa tinaguriang “Batang Kabute.”

Pinangalanan ang sityo dahil nagsulputan dito nang parang kabute ang mga maralitang walang masilungan. Sila na ang nagpaayos sa lupaing dating talahiban at imbakan ng basura. Para sana ito sa matiwasay na paglalakihan ng kanilang mga anak.

Ngayon, karamihan sa mga Batang Kabute ang nagtitinda na lamang ng sampaguita. Napilitan silang tumigil sa pag-aaral nang mawalan ng trabaho ang kanilang mga magulang noong maganap ang demolisyon. “Ngayon, di pa rin kami makapagtrabaho. Laging may balitang bukas magdedemolis kaya di pumapasok ang karamihan para mag-abang,” ani Almario.

Bukod sa pangunguna sa pagtatayo ng samahang magtatanggol sa kanilang mga karapatan, kinupkop ng progresibong mga organisasyon ang mga batang edad anim hanggang sampu. Tinuruan silang magsulat ng mga tula, kumanta ng mga awit, at lumikha ng mga dibuhong nagsasalamin sa kanilang tunay na kalagayan.

Pagtatanghal

Sa benefit concert, tinanghal ng mga bata ang shadow play na produkto ng workshop nila sa ilalim ng Anino Shadowplay Collective. Iba’t ibang dibuho at cut-outs na pangbata ang nilangkapan ng ilaw at galaw sa saliw ng awit ng mga Batang Kabute.

Binigkas nila ang isang tulang may mga linyang: “O Inang Gloria/ Kami ay nagdurusa/ Sa kasakiman ng iyong pamilya/ O Inang Gloria/ Sinungaling Ka/ Sa aming mga bata ikaw ay masama.” Kinanta nila ang sariling awit na may mga linyang: “Nang dahil sa demolisyon/ Hindi kami makapag-aral/ Nang dahil sa Metrobank/ Nawala ang aming mga tahanan.”

Bilang pakikiisa, nagtanghal ang mga dramatista ng UP Repertory, mga makata ng grupong Kilometer 64, progresibong mang-aawit na si Danny Fabella, at mga bandang The Wuds, Republika de Lata, Anak ni Aling Juana, at The Outlaws.

Ayon nga kay Bayani Cambronero, regional coordinator ng Bayan Muna-ST, “Ang mga kabute na dati-rating tinatapakan, ibang klaseng kabute na ngayon—mga kabuteng lumalaban.”(PinoyWeekly)

4 children, 3 others hurt in Friday clash

October 1, 2008

Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 08:57
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DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/29 September) — Four children and three other persons were wounded in a reported clash Friday near the evacuation center in Sitio Nimao, Barangay Balanaken, of this town.

Merpat Mohammad, 9, Abdullah Mohammad, 6, Datumanong Taculanga, 3 and Mohaguira Montano, 8 were in Datu Gumbay Elementary School’s room 22 when blasts erupted allegedly from the military detachment near the evacuation site.

Kabiba Mohammad, father of Merpat and Abdullah, told Mindanao Tulong Bakwet that the shrapnel that hit the children came from the first blast from the detachment.

Kabiba said the clash lasted from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

He said the incident showed that they could not be safe even in an evacuation center.

Families displaced by the resumption of hostilities between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been living in evacuation centers for several weeks now.

Montano, one of the child victims, said she might be unable to return to school because of the continued fighting between the two groups.

She is a grade two pupil in Balanaken.

The blast also wounded Waras Abdulmaguid, 25, Narex Taculanga, 32, and Mustapha Kalusiang, 36.

Sarah Anabal, 35 and two months pregnant, reportedly had a miscarriage owing to the incident.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division said he had not received a report on the incident. (Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor)

CHR to gov’t, MILF: Create zones of peace for kids

September 15, 2008

‘Sub-human’ conditions denounced in relief centers

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 08:21:00 09/15/2008

 

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Commission on Human Rights has called on both the government and the Moro rebels engaged in armed combat in Mindanao to create zones of peace for children.

In a statement e-mailed to media, CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima said that children should take center stage in any talks between the two parties.

“Children are the vassals of our future. The way to peace necessarily includes them. Afford the children a central place in all decisions and politics that necessarily affect their well-being…In the best interest of all our children, insulate them from the harrowing effects of armed conflict and displacement…No harm should come upon them,” she said.

De Lima also expressed “deep alarm” on the toll the ongoing war has inflicted on children. She said the children’s rights to life, survival, development, education, and to be with their families were disrupted because of the fighting.

Following reports that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is recruiting children to become warriors, the CHR “condemns the use of children as soldiers by any armed group.” It said that recruitment of children in armed groups is one of the six grave child rights violations
identified by the United Nations’ Security Council; the others are killing and maiming, abduction, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.

It asked the MILF to allow a special CHR team access to MILF training camps so that it could verify or belie the reports. “We challenge the MILF to cooperate,” the commission said.

The CHR said both parties should include this prohibition in their peace agenda.

“Cease and desist from the practice or tolerance of recruiting children in the active ranks or in the auxiliary services. Your children’s place should never be in the trenches of war-ridden fields but in schools where they can develop and actualize as complete individuals living lives with dignity and humanity,” it said.

In the same breath, the CHR did not let the government easily off the hook, particularly on the report that five children, including a 17-year-old pregnant minor, were killed during an air strike in Datu Piang Maguindanao on September 8.

“The taking of lives of children is not justified, even if these children were recruited by armed rebel groups. That makes children double victims. Dead children… as a ‘collateral damage’ is unacceptable,” the CHR said.

The commission is currently conducting a follow-up, deeper investigation into the Datu Piang incident with the view of determining the accountability for the deaths of the five children.

“Children are affected by armed conflict in many ways from the deprivation of their immediate needs to the psychological trauma brought on by war,” it said.

The commission thus regularly sends monitors to evacuation centers to ensure that their rights are not violated.

However, “the lingering observation is that national and institutional frameworks in place sadly do not provide children sufficient protection from the effects of war,” it said, noting that the state of evacuation centers is “deplorable and sub-human.”

“Cramped living spaces, cold cemented floors, limited supply of water for bathing, washing and drinking, lack or absence of latrines, conscripted access to nutritional food, lack of medicines and clothes is the reality for the ‘batang bakwit,'” De Lima said.

Batang bakwit is the term used on children in evacuation centers.

Aside from disrupted classes, as public schools serve as evacuation centers during fire fights, children and their parents don’t have access to medical missions, “and more importantly, to psycho-social interventions to address the debilitating trauma of war for children.”

“These displaced are often repository only of immediate food or non-food items that focuses sharply only on their survival,” the CHR said.

The commission pointed out that while evacuation centers serve as temporary shelters, they can potentially provide more harm than good to children.

Citing reports from evacuation centers in other countries, it said children have been victims of rape and molestation (“gender-based violence”) there as they don’t provide privacy or the basic amenities of home and security.

“It is therefore imperative for both the government and non-state actors to resolve all armed conflicts with much haste and decisiveness and to instead commit to the use of peaceful dialogues in addressing ideological differences. If a protracted war cannot be avoided and the return to their homes of origin an impossibility, these displaced families and children must be properly relocated,” the CHR said.

With a report from Jocelyn Uy, Inquirer

Big-time drug lords using child couriers

September 15, 2008

By Dexter A. See

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet — Police and anti-narcotics operatives here have intensified operations against big-time drug syndicates which are using minors as pushers and couriers.

The campaign against drug syndicates came after the arrest of a 17-year-old boy from Cavite who was found in possession of “shabu” worth at least P140,000.

Last week, agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in the Cordillera arrested the boy from Cavite after he tried to sell 10 grams of “shabu” during a “buy-bust” operation in front of the Quezon Elementary School here.

Chief Supt. Eugene G. Martin, director of the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera, said there is an urgent need to step up the joint police-PDEA operations against big-time drug syndicates operating in this city to spare the youth from the ill-effects of drugs.

Investigators said the arrested minor delivered “shabu” of various weights in the city at least three times.

The minor is believed to be a member of a big-time drug syndicate which is based in Dasmariñas, Cavite and which is involved in large-scale distribution and sale of shabu in Luzon.

Earlier, two women, also from Dasmarinas, were apprehended in this city for possession of shabu worth P165,000 in an entrapment operation conducted by PDEA agents and policemen.

At present, PDEA and police assets are tracking down the main source of the illegal drugs.

Martin said use of minors as couriers of illegal drugs by syndicates taking advantage of the leniency of the law on young offenders was alarming.

He said under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2000 in relation to Republic Act 9344 and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, youth offenders, aged 15 years old and below, are not criminally liable, while those 16 and 17 years old can be charged only upon proof of their discernment of the act upon assessment by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Under the same law, the use of minors as runners, couriers, and messengers, or in any other capacity directly connected to the dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, is an aggravating circumstance in drugs cases.

From January to August, this year, PDEA and other law-enforcement agencies in the region arrested six minors for drug-related crimes.

Martin said that collective efforts must be exerted to put a stop to the use of minors as couriers and pushers because it is jeopardizing the future of the youth. (NorthernPhilippineTimes)

Military welcomes probe on Maguindanao incident

September 10, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY — A top military official said Tuesday that they welcome any investigation into allegations that a bomb dropped by government forces in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Monday killed six innocent civilians.

AFP vice chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna said in a radio interview that the investigation would reveal the truth as to “how these people, how these children got into that situation.”

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Another official, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Major Arman Rico, said the bodies showed bullet wounds from M16 rifles, and these could not have been caused by a bombing run of a military plane.

Initial reports said six people, including three children, were killed Monday when a bomb allegedly dropped by a military aircraft hit a motorized banca loaded with evacuees in a river in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang town.

The report said the victims were on their way to an evacuation site at Datu Piang when the incident happened Monday morning.

In welcoming the probe, Luna said the military is strictly adhering to the rules of engagement while in pursuit of MILF renegade members led by Umbra Kato alias Commander Kato in Central Mindanao and Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo in Lanao del Norte.

“We avoid collateral damage or civilian casualties as much as possible,” Luna said.

Rico said there was an encounter in Barangay Tee Datu Piang between the Philippine Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under commanders Wahid Tondok and Badrudin Silongan an hour before the death of the civilians.

“Tapos may plane nag-reconnaissance na binaril ng mga MILF na naka pumpboat. Binalikan ito ng eroplano at tinira ng machinegun (The MILF fired at the military plane doing reconnaissance. The plane fired back using machinegun),” Rico said.

Luna added that the rebels withdrew on board motorized bancas and were spotted by military planes in the marshy area of Barangay Tee.

He further said the pilots were forced to fire back using machinegun after the rebels aboard the motorized bancas fired at the military planes.

According to Rico, the military is now investigating how the six civilians were killed. He surmised that they were caught in crossfire and not by the military plane strafing since the injuries of the civilians were believed caused by M16 rifles.

Rico said the military plane uses machinegun and not M16. Army helicopters and planes reportedly attacked rebel positions near a marshland after renegade members of the MILF had fired at military helicopters.

But Musib Uy Tan, a local official, told reporters the civilians were on their way to a temporary shelter area when their boat was hit by rockets fired from helicopter gunships.

“The boat was a total wreck,” Tan said, adding that the bodies of a 53-year-old farmer and his family, including a pregnant 17-year-old girl, had been pulled from the water.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, identified the fatalities in the military operation as Daya and Vilma Manunggal; the 18-year-old newlywed and pregnant Aida; Kim, 7; Adtaya, 7; and Faiza, all surnamed Mandi. He said two other civilians, Caharodin, 16; and Bailyn, 13; both surnamed Mandi, were wounded.

Kabalu said they were all killed by bombs from military OV-10 planes.

“There was no fighting in Datu Piang since Sunday. What happened was that the military launched air strikes. There are many soldiers right now in Datu Piang,” Kabalu said in a report.

Troops are pursuing Commanders Kato and Bravo, and government is offering a P20 million reward for anyone who could provide vital information that would lead to their arrest. (BPG/With BOT of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Japanese-Filipino Kids Welcome New Law on Citizenship

September 2, 2008

The June 4 decision of the Japan Supreme Court will reverse the old law which only grants nationality to Japanese-Filipino children whose parents were married legally. The new law will include children whose parents are not legally married.

BY GERMELINA A. LACORTE
Davao Today
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

DAVAO CITY— James Akiyama, 20, has regularly been receiving support money from his Japanese father since he was born.

But under the old law of Japan, Japanese Filipino children like him could never become full-fledged Japanese citizens because their parents never married.

“The June 4 ruling of the Japanese Supreme Court will change this,” said Japanese Lawyer Hironori Kondoh of the Tokyo-based Japanese-Filipino Children Lawyers Association during his visit to Davao early this month.

“The Japanese Supreme Court has pronounced the old ruling as “unconstitutional,” Kondoh told a jampacked room of affected Japanese Filipino children and their mothers. “It’s not the fault of the children that their parents were unmarried.”

Kondoh said that the June 4 decision of the Japan Supreme Court will reverse the old law which only grants nationality to Japanese-Filipino children whose parents were married legally. He said that the new law will include children whose parents are not legally married.

Japanese media expect the Diet (Japanese Parliament) to start session towards the end of August. Although there is some opposition to the law, there is a big chance that it will be passed, according to Kondoh, one of the 60 lawyers helping the Japanese Filipino children in Japan.

Kondoh urged Japanese Filipino children in a forum to take advantage of the new law.

He said children and mothers living in Davao can apply before the Japanese embassy once the law takes effect. He also said the application must be done before the child reaches 20 years old. “Japanese-Filipino children from 16 to 19 years old should prepare their documents as soon as possible,” he said.

Akiyama welcomes the new ruling of the Japanese Supreme Court (SC), saying it will give him a chance to see his father, whom he has never met since he was three years old.

The new ruling is expected to open applications for Japanese citizenship among tens of thousands of Japanese Filipino children abandoned by their fathers.

“All they want is recognition more than anything else,” said Sr. Celine Cajanding, executive director of the Center for Overseas Workers Development Inc. (Cowdi), which has been assisting women with Japanese Filipino children in Davao. “They’re saying that if they can’t go there themselves, at least, their children can.”

Jean Bingcoy, president of the Samahan ng Kababaihan para sa Karapatan ng mga Japanese Filipino Children (Women’s Association for the Rights of Japanese-Filipino Children), said her 11-year-old son has not been recognized under the law, although his father has been sending financial support once in a while.

“The new law will help a lot,” she said, “Parents do not need to get married to have their children recognized.”

She said that if the new law will push through, many children abandoned by their Japanese fathers will be looking for a chance to go to Japan. “Life is better in Japan compared to here,” said Bingcoy.

“Some women are also hoping that through their children, they can get residency and a passport,” said Cajanding. “They are the ones who would take care of the children, so, they’ll be allowed to go there.”

At least 40 members of the SKKJ are living in Davao with their Japanese Filipino children, whose fathers are in Japan. Some of these Japanese fathers are sending them financial support while others are not, Cajanding said.

“We expect the Diet (Parliament) to revise the nationality law in August,” said Kondoh. “But even before the law is revised, the government will start accepting application for nationality before September.”

Naoko Kono, executive director of the Maligaya House, a Manila-based NGOs assisting Japanese-Filipino children and their mothers, said their Manila office has handled 840 cases of Japanese Filipino children in Manila since 1994. The cases included those children abandoned by their Japanese fathers.

“Most of these children have no official legal recognition and have not been supported financially,” said Kono. “They need food and money.”

Most of mothers are already married, she said. “But in other cases their Japanese husbands divorced them without their consent,” she said of the Filipina wives. “Sometimes, the husbands falsify their wife’s signatures; in which case, we help the woman file a criminal case against the husband and require the husband to give financial support.”

She said that their Tokyo office handle 500 cases since they opened about 10 years ago. Most of these cases were endorsed by Maligaya House.

The disparity of the living conditions between Japan and the Philippines pushes more Filipinas to find work in Japan, where they mostly land as entertainers.

Kono said that they’re currently handling 20 to 30 ongoing paternity cases. Of the 843 cases they handled in 10 years, only 20 or 30 per cent were successful.

“Oftentimes, the mother drops the case because she doesn’t want to prolong her agonies. She wants to move on with her life and marry someone else,” Kono said. Davao Today / Posted by Bulatlat

Women condemn ‘Vitameal’

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A new feeding program has come to provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) that aims to to correct any nutrient deficiencies and thereby promote healthy growth and development. A women’s group, however, criticized it.

Named “Vitameal,” it is supposedly a new hope for nutritionally challenged children in the Cordilleras. This school year, provinces in CAR started receiving their rations of Vitameal thru day care and Grade One pupils.

At the Innabuyog regional council meet last August 15, members from all around the region had raised their qualms about the product.

“Mapait. Medyo sweet and sour. Lasang betsin. Ayaw kainin ng mga bata, kaya kailangan pa naming gumastos para sa ihahalo namin para kainin nila,” (It tastes bitter, with a hint of sweet and sour and it also tastes of monosodium glutamate. The children do not like it. We have to buy additional ingredients for them to eat it) said Estrell Balutoc of Innabuyog – Abra

Carol Bagyan of Innabuyog – Kalinga said, “Palitan kaming mga magulang ng pagluto. Pakukuluan namin at hahaluan ng iba-ibang sangkap.” (Paarents take turns cooking. We boil it and add in different ingredients)

Parents are enforced to add supplemental ingredients to the Vitameal since children do not seem to favor its taste. “Nagdadagdag pa kami ng malagkit, asukal, tsokolate, para kainin ng mga bata yung Vitameal,” (We have to add in glutinous rice, sugar, cocoa, just so the kids would eat this Vitameal”) added Bagyan.

Parents are suspicious of this Vitameal program as the servings given to the children were without a decent packaging. Not even a label for parents to be informed of its ingredients. “Natatakot kami at baka may GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) iyan.” (We fear it may contain GMOs) said Zenaida Hangdaan of Innabuyog – Ifugao

Parents also claimed that upon asking the teachers in charge of the Vitameal’s distribution of its ingredients and the nutrients that their children should be able to absorb from it, the teachers responded that they did not know exactly what this contain.

“The whole nation is stricken by hunger and poverty whether Malacañang accepts it or not” says Innabuyog Chairperson Vernie Yocogan- Diano.

“Her hunger mitigation programs are actually just dole outs that attempt to sugarcoat the worsening poverty. Her feeding program does not even reach the poorest of the poor, who are in most need of help. This is just another opportunity for graft and corruption to take place,” she added.

Innabuyog states that what should be pursued are long-term policies toward genuine agrarian reform and agricultural development, job creation and a national policy for health care and education. # Myko Chiong(NorthernDispatch)

‘Kicking nun,’ school told to pay P50,000 for child abuse

August 18, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:56:00 08/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Court of Appeals has ordered Aquinas School in San Juan City and one of its former employees—a Catholic nun who used to teach religion—to pay P50,000 to the parents of a young boy whom she was found guilty of subjecting to physical abuse.

The August 4 ruling upheld the decision of the Pasig City regional trial court which ordered Sister Margarita Yamyamin in June 2006 to pay P25,000 in moral damages, P25,000 in exemplary damages and P10,000 in attorney’s fees to Jose and Ma. Victoria Inton.

Although the appellate court denied the Intons’ plea to raise the amount of damages awarded to them, it reversed the lower court’s ruling that the school should not be held liable for the incident.

The Intons filed criminal and civil cases against Yamyamin after she was accused of kicking their son and pounding his head on a chair. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three to five years in prison in 1999.

Yamyamin said in her defense that the boy had been recalcitrant and abusive which was why she “accidentally” used disciplinary measures with more strength than she had intended. She claimed that she caught the boy teasing a classmate for the second time.

The school, for its part, said it was not liable for monetary damages because Yamyamin was not its employee. The nun, it added, had been assigned by her religious congregation to teach at the school without any salary.

The Intons brought the case to the appellate court because they were dissatisfied with the amount of damages awarded to them considering the emotional and psychological trauma that their son had suffered. They also said the school should be held liable for the incident.

But the appellate court ruling penned by Justice Vicente Veloso said that the P25,000 in moral damages was enough, since such an award is not meant to make the victim richer.

“The award is in fact consistent with the rule that moral damages are not intended to enrich the injured party, but to alleviate the moral suffering he has undergone by reason of defendant’s culpable action,” it said.

The court added that the award of P25,000 in exemplary damages was correct as well, considering that such is given in order to set an example for others not to follow a wrong act.

In holding Aquinas liable for damages as well, the appellate court pointed out that though Yamyamin did not receive a salary from the school, she was considered an employee because she was under its control or supervision.

And even if Yamyamin was not a school employee, Aquinas would still be held liable for damages because it has a contract with the enrolled student and it is obligated to provide him with a safe atmosphere for learning, it stressed.(PDI)

======================

My Take:

This nun should be expelled from the church also.  Her actuations are way far from what the Social Doctrine of the Church is requiring us to do towards our brothers and sisters.

The church must also understand that they need to cleanse their ranks now, specially because of the perceived corruption happening inside the very walls of the church.

Their call fr a corruption-less government will get no impact if the people they are trying to mobilize sees the same going on inside some of the Catholic’s churches.

Two-year old Hospitalized after Eating Rice with MSG as Viand

August 13, 2008

While the island of Negros is known as the land of sugar, many of its people are suffering from hunger and poverty. A two-year old boy ate the meal prepared by his sister, rice with monosodium glutamate or MSG, because there was no salt. After a few hours, he was rushed to a hospital and has been confined for more than a week now. This is a glimpse of the situation of hunger in the island.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 27, August 10-16, 2008

BACOLOD CITY – For lack of anything to eat, a two-year old boy ingested monosodium glutamate or MSG. He has been confined at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital since then.

On July 29, Ryan, not his real name, was with his three siblings in their home in Bgy. Makiling, Sagay, Negros Occidental. Both of their parents were out selling ice cream sticks for a living. The eldest son, 12 years old, was also out salvaging scrap metal to sell to augment the family income.

It was lunch time and the eldest sister aged nine prepared food. They had rice but there was no salt available; the girl used MSG as substitute.

A few hours after eating, Ryan got dizzy and eventually passed out.

Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital In an interview, Jennylyn Labajo, Ryan’s mother, related that they brought Ryan to the Bato District Hospital. The next day, their son was transferred to the Corazon Montelibano Memorial Hospital. The boy is confined at the Surgery-Pediatrics Section of the hospital.

Ryan’s doctor was not available for interview. The label on his bed indicates that he ingested MSG and also suffers from rabies.

His mother told Bulatlat that the boy was bitten by a dog a day before he ingested MSG.

Jennylyn said she had no choice but to leave her children at home so she could help his husband earn a living. She earns P70 ($1.578 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.34) a day while her husband earns P100 ($2.25) from selling ice cream sticks. During rainy season, their combined income is smaller.

Jennylyn related that they pay P200 ($4.51) for monthly rent. Their former house was destroyed by the last typhoon. They also cannot afford to send their children to school. Her five children have not yet been registered.

Dr. Geneve Rivera, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) said that MSG ingestion could affect a child’s kidney and liver.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 2.5 grams of MSG may cause headache, muscle tightness, numbness/tingling, general weakness, and flushing.

In an article posted by the worldhealthcenter.net, Dr. George J Georgiou and Barbara Karafokas of DaVinci Natural Health Centre, Larnaca, Cyprus said that MSG is toxic to humans and that over 25 percent of the world’s population suffers from adverse reactions from MSG.

The same article states that neuroscientists believe that the young and the elderly are most at risk from MSG. “In the young, the blood-brain barrier is not fully developed, exposing the brain to increased levels of MSG that has entered the bloodstream. The elderly are at increased risk because the blood-brain barrier can be damaged by aging, by disease processes, or by injury, including hypertension, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and stroke.”

Hunger, malnutrition

Ryan’s case is just a glimpse on the extent of hunger and malnutrition in the country.

According to government data, Negros registers an annual rate of 8.89 percent in malnutrition.

The latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showed that the total hunger in the Visayas rose to 19.7 percent. Severe hunger is pegged at 3.3 percent. Bulatlat

Carmelite priest decries gov’t failure to address hunger

August 6, 2008

MANILA, August 4, 2008─The many proofs of good governance and good economy that peppered President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation address last July 28 are far from the truth according to the story of a Carmelite priest.

Fr. Jerry Sabado, O. Carm said the government is responsible in taking care of lives, nourishment and other basic needs of the Filipino children and the Filipino people as a whole.

“But penury, hunger and inhuman living conditions—that’s all that this government can give to the Filipino people,” lamented the priest.

Sabado said that days before Arroyo’s SONA, children in Payatas went hungry. And it was the same, days after the “historical” speech of the chief executive inside the Batasang Pambansa.

“In our church in Payatas, a child lined for the Holy Communion. But the problem is, he [was] not older than seven years old. The child cried when I told him, he [was] not allowed to take the Holy Host because he [has not taken yet] his First Communion. He cried and cried, begging me, saying ‘Father, sige na po! Gutum na gutom na po ako. Gusto ko po ng tinapay’,” narrated Sabado, a priest of the Order of Carmelite and a member of Kasimbayan (Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan) and Promotion of Church Peoples Response (PCPR) in statement sent to CBCP News a day after the 8th SONA last July 28.

The priest said he was moved by the scene. Then he continued his story:

“Last Monday, July 21, there was a huge fire in Pandacan. Some of the victims were Aglipayans. Two children died, unable to escape the fiery blaze, while the mother [was] in [a] long line, waiting for her turn to buy some kilos of NFA (National Food Authority) rice. Not so long ago, there [were] siblings that have died also in the fire, here in Payatas, while their parents [were] working—scavenging in the huge piles of garbage.”

“A small bread can bring a lot of joy to that small boy. How many breads, bags of rice and other food items can be bought and distributed to millions of our poor kababayans, by billions of pesos that were stolen and planned to be stolen by this government?,” asked Sabado.

“There is no moral basis for anyone to remain in power, especially those in the highest position, if their positions are being used to make themselves rich, while the people are impoverishing and dying because of hunger,” added Sabado.

“As a church that promotes life, it is righteous for the Church to join the people in condemning, in the strongest terms, the plundering of people’s money and the abuse of power of those who is in authority,” said Sabado.

He declared it is an un-Christian to remain silent in the face of ongoing corruption, and it is not right for Church leaders to explicitly support Arroyo.

“Gloria is riding over the pro-Life position of the Church, it is rightful that the Church be in front, in condemning the policies and programs of a corrupt president, who’s number one in destroying and in depriving life and dignity to the millions of Filipinos,” said the priest.

He added that as ordinary church people, like any ordinary Filipino, they can feel the impoverished state of the country.

“We will not close our eyes on the immorality of this government. We are with you in fighting and in making the Arroyo government accountable, who untiringly looting the country’s chest and economy and continuously suppressing and massacring the people. On that note, hand in hand, let’s call for her resignation,” Sabado said.

High percentage living in poverty

According to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS), 59 percent of the Filipino families, or 10.9 million people, say they are poor. This was nine (9) points higher than of last year, where the self-rated poverty had only recorded 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Pulse Asia, Inc., said that 66 percent of the Filipino population—or two out of three Filipinos—said that the Philippine economy have worsened, much worse than of 2005.

Still, the International Labor Organization (ILO) says that majority of the Filipinos still live for less than US$2 a day.

What is more saddening, before the SONA, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said more than 11 million children are malnourished.

Poverty due to corruption

In the 2007 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 131, meaning that people perceive there is rampant corruption happening inside the government.

Earlier, in the height of investigation of the controversial national broadband network (NBN) deal with the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited or ZTE, a Chinese company, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a strong Pastoral Statement—Seeking Truth, Restoring Integrity—condemning “the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder” and urging the “President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found.” (Noel Sales Barcelona)(CBCPNews)

Ifugao gov urges CAR peace body to solve crimes vs. women, kids

August 3, 2008

BANAWE, Ifugao — With rape registering one-fifth of all index crimes in the province, officials here and the visiting regional heads of government agencies agreed violence against women and children is a social concern that should be addressed with certain urgency.

Gov. Teddy Baguilat considers some social problems, besides rape, as the greatest threat to the Ifugao’s peace and order mentioning that while province has been declared jueteng-free, some other vices and problems still manifest.

“If we are to prepare a place where we could nurture the future of our children, then it should also be free of social problems,” Baguilat said. “This is a generally peaceful province, but it has its share in the region’s problems,” he said as he greeted participants to the Regional Peace and Order Council, which held a meeting at the Banawe Hotel, here, Friday.

In his report to the Provincial Peace and Order Council, which also met at the same venue, shortly before the RPOC meeting started, Provincial Police Director Joseph Adnol said Ifugao is the only province with no problems concerning Communist rebels.

Both officials, however, acknowledged the relatively high incidence of sexual abuse, especially among minors.

In his orientation paper Adnol mentioned that rape consisted 21% of all index crimes in the province in a one-year period. Physical injuries comprised 17% while homicide registered 9%. Other crimes registered low with robbery (5%), theft (4%) and murder (1%).

The Cordillera PNP report during the RPOC meeting also mentioned rape occurrence in Benguet and other provinces of the Cordillera.

This was confirmed by Provincial Social Welfare Officer Joyce Niwani, who said the DSWD is looking into violence against women and children, especially now that she receives reports that these violations happen inside the homes.

“Local folk are aware of what is happening and they come to us to report the incidents,” Niwani told the press in an interview.

Police Regional Director Eugene Martin, however, clarified, the registered crimes do not necessarily reflect the true picture because only those which have been pursued in court are included in the listing of crimes. Martin said the Philippine National Police is following a national directive.

“Once you look at the police blotter, the list may be longer,” Martin clarified. He said, a lot of cases reported in the police blotter pass through amicable settlement, and are usually stricken out.

Niwani said government agencies encourage the filing of legal cases against the perpetrators so that they get the corresponding treatment under the law.

Meanwhile, both Niwani and Baguilat said the Summit on Women and Children in November would be a good step at raising people’s consciousness on VAW/C but agree that the activity alone could not address the problem. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

29M bata ‘walang pag-unlad’

July 31, 2008

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

WALANG pag-unlad ang 29 milyong bata sa Pilipinas dahil sa kapalpakan sa panunungkulan ni Pangulong Arroyo, ayon sa mga grupong tagapagtaguyod ng karapatang pang-bata.

Sa “State of the Nation ‘s Children Address” na inorganisa ng Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns noong Hunyo 25, sinabi ng grupo na milyun-milyong bata ang malnourished, may sakit, o namamatay dahil sa matinding gutom.

“Sa mga maralitang komunidad, dahil sa mataas na presyo ng bilihin at kawalang-trabaho, kumakain na lang ang mga bata ng balinghoy o saging sa umaga,” ayon kay Alphonse Rivera, tagapagsalita ng Salinlahi.

Idinagdag ng Salinlahi na 90,000 batang Pilipino ang iniiwan kada buwan ng 3,000 Pilipino na nangingibang-bansa kada araw. “Masakit sa bata ang mawalay sa magulang. Bulnerable sila sa pang-aabuso at karahasan,” ani Rivera.

Mula 2001 hanggang 2006, may 215, 233 bata din umano ang biktima ng mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Karamihan ang sapilitang lumikas dahil sa militarisasyon. May 106 bata naman ang naulila o naging saksi sa ekstrahudisyal na pagpaslang sa kanilang magulang.

Sinabi naman ni Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan na hindi natupad ni Arroyo ang pangako nitong mas abot-kayang edukasyon para mga batang Pilipino sa kanyang State of the Nation Address noong 2001.

Tatlong bata mula sa Payatas ang ginamit ng Pangulo noon na halimbawa.

“Pitong taon na ang nakakaraan, pero hindi nakakapasok ang isa sa 10 bata, naghihiraman ang dalawa o tatlong sa isang teksbuk, at 60 hanggang 75 bata ang nagkaklasrum sa ilalim ng puno ng mangga,” ani Ilagan.

Sa ulat umano na isinumite ng gobyerno sa Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child, lumalabas na bumaba pa nga ang ginagastos ng gobyerno para sa edukasyon.

Noong 2008, nasa P2,000 na lamang ang ginagastos ng gobyerno para sa isang tao, mas mababa ng 14% kumpara noong 1998.

‘Arroyo, No. 1 Violator of Children’s Rights’ – NGO

July 27, 2008

“An empty kaing, an empty balikbayan box, an obsolete school book and a worn-out, blood- stained sack represented the empty stomachs, the worsening state of education and state-sponsored violence that Filipino children are experiencing today.”

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, Number 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

A non-government organization branded Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the number one violator of children’s rights.

In a statement, SALINLAHI described the situation of children today as, “An empty kaing (basket), an empty balikbayan box, an obsolete school book and a worn-out, blood- stained sack represented the empty stomachs, the worsening state of education and state-sponsored violence that Filipino children are experiencing today.”

SALINLAHI, citing data from Social Weather Station survey, said that at least eight million Filipino children are malnourished, sick or dying because of hunger.

The group said that children from rural and urban poor communities experience hunger everyday. “Some just eat balinghoy (cassava) or a banana for breakfast and lunch instead of the staple rice. Even if they have money to buy rice once in a while, they will just mix it with salt and water to overcome hunger. In leaner times, they will just sleep their hunger away.”

SALINLAHI also said that children of migrant workers suffer from agony from being separated from their parents and they become vulnerable to abuse and violence. With more than 3,000 Filipinos leaving each day to work abroad, SALINLAHI estimated that 90,000 children are being left behind each month. The group said that some are even orphaned with parents going home in a casket.

Alphonse Rivera, spokesperson of SALINLAHI said, “Majority of children have not experienced the development and progress that Mrs. Arroyo is talking about. What children experience are hunger, corruption and high prices. The spiraling prices of basic commodities such as rice bury the children and their families into deeper worsening poverty.”

Rivera said that violence is the Arroyo government’s answer to the impoverished situation of Filipino families.

He said that from 2001 to July 2006, there were 215,233 children who had been victims of human rights violations. He said that106 children were orphaned or witnessed the killings of their loved ones and majority of them are victims of forced evacuation and displacement.
These incidents include killings, frustrated killings, torture and humiliation, abductions, rape, sexual harassments, illegal arrests, threats and intimidation.

Rivera said, “The children, together with their families are demanding for the decent life that they deserve. It is the utmost responsibility of the Gloria Arroyo government to uphold the rights of children—to survival, development, protection and participation in issues that affect them.”

The group called on all families, with their children, to go out in the streets and to “fight for the ouster of the nation’s number one violator of children’s rights.”  Bulatlat

Papanagutin ang mga sundalong nagpahirap sa 6-anyos na bata

July 23, 2008

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns
Saturday, 19 July 2008 23:32
var sburl5811 = window.location.href; var sbtitle5811 = document.title;var sbtitle5811=encodeURIComponent(“Papanagutin ang mga sundalong nagpahirap sa 6-anyos na bata”); var sburl5811=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4765”); sburl5811=sburl5811.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl5811=encodeURIComponent(sburl5811);DAVAO CITY(Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns/17 July) — Mariing kinokondena ng iba’t-ibang organisasyong nagsusulong ng karapatan ng mga bata sa ilalim ng Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns ang ginawang pagpaso ng dalawang kagawad ng Air Force sa isang batang anim na taong gulang sa Davao City.

”Hindi makatao ang ginawang ito ng mga sundalo sa bata. Kahit ano pa ang ginawa ng bata,  hindi nararapat na siya ay parusahan sa napakalupit na paraan.” pahayag ni Alphonse Rivera, tagapagsalita ng Salinlahi. ”Ang ginawang pagpaso sa kanya  hindi lamang mag-iiwan ng marka sa kanyang katawan,kungdi maging sa kanyang kaisipan at sa kanyang buong pagkatao na kanyang dadalhin hanggang sa kanyang pagtanda”.Ayon kay Rivera, ang Air Force bilang bahagi ng Armed Forces of the Philippines ay dapat na nagtatanggol sa karapatan ng mga tao, ngunit sa mga nagdaang karanasan sila pa ang lumalabag nito. ”Marami nang mga bata ang naging biktima ng karahasan ng AFP. Ang kaso ng bata sa Davao ay isa lamang sa napakaraming bilang ng mga batang biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao at pasismo ng estado.”  Idinagdag pa niya na ”mistulang oryentasyon na ng mga militar, ang panghuhuli at pagtorture sa mga inosenteng bata”.

Sa darating na SONA ni Pangulong Gloria Arroyo, ani Rivera, tiyak na ipagmamalaki niya ang pagsulong ng kapayapaan at kaunlaran na tinatamasa ng mga bata na  siya namang taliwas sa tunay na kalagayan ng ating  buhay.  “Taon-taun patuloy na lumalaki ang budget na inilalaan nito sa pwersang militar kasabay ng pagwawalang bahala sa pagbibigay ng batayang serbisyo tulad ng edukasyon at kalusugan.  Kung kayat sa halip na pagkalinga ang tinatamasa ng mga bata , karahasan ang sagot ng ating pamahalaan”

Nanawagan si Rivera na gawaran ng kaukulang kaparusahan ang mga may kagagawan sa pisikal na pag-abuso sa bata. ”Bigyan ng kagyat na katarungan ang batang ito at ang  iba pang mga batang biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao,” pagtatapos niya.

Refence: Alphonse Rivera, Tagapagsalita

Grade School Participation Rate Plunges to 16-Year Low

July 11, 2008

Since it came to power more than seven years ago, the Arroyo administration has, among other feats, earned the distinction of bringing down the elementary school level participation rate to a 16-year low. The secondary school participation rate, meanwhile, has decreased by as much as 14.85 percentage points since 2001.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

Since it came to power through a popular uprising more than seven years ago, the Arroyo administration has, among other feats, earned the distinction of bringing down the participation rate (the proportion of the number of enrollees at the prescribed level of education for their age) at the elementary school level to a 16-year low.

The secondary school participation rate, meanwhile, has decreased by 14.85 percentage points since 2001.

According to the Department of Education (DepEd), elementary schools posted a participation rate of 99.10 percent for school year 1990-1991. It decreased to 85.10 percent the following school year, but rose to 85.21 percent in school year 1992-1993, continuously increasing until school year 1999-2000 when it reached 96.95 percent. It slightly decreased in school year 2000-2001, but went on another upward trend until school year 2002-2003 when it plunged to 90.29 percent from the previous school year’s 97.00 percent.

This was the start of a continuous downward trend. From 90.29 percent in school year 2002-2003, elementary school participation rates decreased to 88.74 percent in 2003-2004, 87.11 percent in 2004-2005, 84.44 percent in 2005-2006, and 83.22 percent in 2006-2007. The 2006-2007 elementary school participation rate is actually the lowest in 16 years. (See Table 1)

Table 1. Elementary School Participation Rates, 1990-2007

School Year

Participation Rate (%)

1990-1991

99.10

1991-1992

85.10

1992-1993

85.21

1995-1996

92.70

1996.1997

94.33

1997-1998

95.09

1998-1999

95.73

1999-2000

96.95

2000-2001

96.40

2001-2002

97.00

2002-2003

90.29

2003-2004

88.74

2004-2005

87.11

2005-2006

84.44

2006-2007

83.22

Source: Department of Education

At first glance, the statistics appear to be better at the secondary level. With the participation rate at 54.71 percent in school year 1990-1991 and 58.59 in school year 2006-2007, it could at least be said that the secondary school participation rate did not reach a 16-year low under the Arroyo administration.

However, the secondary school participation rate of school year 2006-2007 represents a 14.85-percentage point reduction since 2001. (See Table 2)

Table 2. Secondary School Participation Rates, 1990-2007

School Year

Participation Rate (%)

1990-1991

54.71

1991-1992

55.42

1992-1993

56.75

1993-1994

57.62

1994-1995

58.47

1995-1996

62.25

1996-1997

63.38

1997-1998

64.04

1998-1999

65.22

1999-2000

65.43

2000-2001

72.25

2001-2002

73.44

2002-2003

59.00

2003-2004

60.15

2004-2005

59.97

2005-2006

58.54

2006-2007

58.59

Source: Department of Education

What proved to be a continuous upward trend from 1990 to 2002 in secondary level participation rates was cut drastically in school year 2002-2003, which showed a steep 14.44-percentage point decline. The participation rate improved slightly in the next school year before going down again in 2004-2005. The 0.05-percentage point increase from 2005-2006 to 2006-2007 was not enough to even bring back the secondary level participation rate to the school year 2003-2004 level.

“If we compare the period from 2001 to 2007 to that of 1990 to 2000, we can see that the poverty incidence is higher now compared to the previous decade,” said France Castro, secretary-general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and president of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA). “Basic goods have become so expensive that the parents of our students have become unable to afford even basic education. They now find it very difficult to send their children to school.”

“And even if basic education is said to be free, it’s not really free,” Castro added. “There are still many fees collected from students, like Red Cross fees and anti-tuberculosis fees, for instance.”

Castro said that there have been nominal increases in the basic education budget in both periods. However, she pointed out that the increases were bigger in 1990-2000 than in 2001-2007.

Estimates by the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation show that the government now spends P2,000 ($44.00 at the July 4 exchange rate of $1:P45.45) per Filipino for education – or only 14 percent, in real terms, of what it spent in 1998.

The Philippine government currently spends 12.0 percent of its public expenditure and 2.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education – way below the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) standards of 22.0 percent of public expenditures and 6.0 percent of GDP. Bulatlat

Young, Poor and Unschooled

June 22, 2008

By Perla Aragon-Choudhury
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

QUEZON CITY — Pepe, 12, is busy helping his mother package loose garlic cloves for sale. “Before I go to school,” he says,” I put the cloves in plastic packs and staple them onto strips of cardboard. And when I get back home, I walk with my mother to the stores around Tandang Sora.”

Working in this main thoroughfare of Quezon City with his mother, Pepe endures the fierce afternoon sun, as shown by his dark brown skin. But he is proud to have finished Grade 6 — and happy that his cousin Jeffrey will return to school after dropping out last year.

Pepe and Jeffrey descended from tenant farmers who once toiled the land here before it was converted into subdivisions for the burgeoning population in the Philippines.

Their grandmother talks of a time when the family had enough for all their needs. But today they have lost the lands and their livelihoods to become tricycle and jeepney drivers or sidewalk vendors who are not allowed in to sell at the nearby private market.

Pepe is not the only working-class student determined to stay in class. In a garbage pile near a big drugstore along Tandang Sora, Mac-Mac, 12, checks for plastic bottles to sell. “I can get a good price for the mineral water ones,” he says indicating a junk shop along Visayas Avenue.

Mac-Mac is a fifth grader at a public school and proudly claims his teachers have awarded him `Best in Science’ and `Top Five’.

“I want to be a doctor and treat people even if they are too poor to pay,” he says as he carries a sack which once held the rice that the poor of Manila now queue for outside of the National Food Authority (NFA) on Visayas Avenue.

A kindly meat vendor in the nearby market worries out loud about the future if the children who work the streets here instead of being in school. “Just like the gangs in Oliver Twist, they’ll probably lack the proper values, character formation, discernment and life skills,” says Francisco Mondragon, 60.

“By late afternoon they are here at the market, asking for what we will discard,” says Mondragon. “How will they get the jobs that just might lift them out of poverty if they’re out of school?”

Shirley too works in the market. Poverty forced her to quit high school after her second year and she is now married to a seasonal construction worker earning what she can through buying and selling on fish to her equally poor neighbors. She makes very little in the way of profit.

But she hopes at least her children with get a better chance of schooling than she ever did.

“I’m lucky that one of my sons impressed his teachers during the entrance interview at the rich pre-school in our area, and got a scholarship. I hope that he can still get one tomorrow when we enroll again in his new school. If not, he might have to quit.”

The problem is education in the Philippines is free in principle –but not in practice. Pupils are routinely denied schooling for failing to wear the proper uniform or having the proper stationary or supplies.

Shirley’s sons and a great many other children like them across the Philippines are being denied the right to an education which is contrary to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that “everyone has the right to education.”

In 2000 — close to 50 years after it ratified the UDHR in 1948 – the Philippines became one of the signatories to the Millennium Declaration and committed to meet by 2015 eight goals that address development concerns worldwide.

Last year marked the midpoint for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but in its progress report last October, the Philippine government said there may be problems in achieving universal primary education.

Writing in the Philippine Center for Investigation (PCIJ) last month, field reporter Jaileen Jimeno described the state of education in the Philippines as dismal. “Since the Arroyo administration came to power in 2001, all key performance indicators in education in fact have floundered,” she claims. “The percentage of schoolchildren who reach up to grade six, for instance, is down from a high of 75.9 percent in 2001 to 69.9 percent in 2006. Elementary dropout rate in 2001 was 5.75 percent, but went up to 7.36 in 2006. Those who repeat a grade is also up, from 1.95 percent in 2001 to 2.89 percent in 2006.”

In large part, she says, problems can largely be traced to a decline in per capita spending for education and a booming population. Per capita spending for education currently stands around $25. This includes teachers’ salaries and building and classroom maintenance. The result is that many schools and their teachers find creative ways of charging pupils and their families in order to raise much needed funds and supplementing income.

But as 20 million children trooped back to school this week, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reminded teachers not to charge them fees and accept those who came without uniforms.

“We want to make it as small a burden as possible on parents to send their children to school. Just like in the United States and many parts of Europe, we should not require children to wear uniforms. We want to make sure that all our children go to school, especially our six-year-olds, because our statistics show that majority are at home.”

The idea is to help children enter and stay in school. In this connection, the National Framework for Youth Development (Philippine Medium-Term Youth Development Plan 2005-2010) cites Labor Code Article 139 which rules that children under 15 may not be employed (as do Republic Act or RA 9231 and 7858).

The Labor Code also prevents children under 16 — like Pepe and Mac-Mac — from working at night; those under 18 from working unless permitted by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); and those below 18 from working in jobs hazardous to health, safety and morals.

Another set of laws – the Women and Child Labor Law, the Labor Code Article 150 and RA 8231 – stipulates that children below 15 are not permitted to work more than seven hours a day; and that no children below 14 are allowed to work as apprentices.

But what if students are near the point of dropping out?

The DOLE has its Special Program for Employment of Students to encourage the employment of poor but deserving students and out-of-school youth (OSY) during summer and Christmas breaks. The Department of Education has its Youth Action for Sustainable Development to teach students and OSY entrepreneurship, science, culture and the arts.

The scholarship for Shirley’s son at Little Lamb Learning Center shows how private groups help prevent and lessen the number of school drop-outs. For its part, Miriam College offers night classes for adults wanting to go back into education. One of its students, Eileen Gardo, made it through the five-year high school course by combining housework with homework for her 5-9 p.m. classes.

She recalls: “At times, I had to wade through floods just to get to exams on time. Many evenings I had to go hungry because I had just enough cash for the jeepney fare but no money for food. But now I want to study hotel and restaurant management so that I can run my very own business. I’m good at cooking, you know.”

Other private initiatives to keep children in schools come from major television networks which requests viewers to donate bags, notebooks, pencils and other school supplies.

And under the Adopt-a-School Program of the Department of Education, schools are built, repaired and maintained by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the SM Foundation and other socially responsible organizations.

Still other groups like Child Hope Asia use a comprehensive approach to ensure livelihood for urban poor families as well to keep children in school as long as possible.

One step at a time admittedly — but when many people move together, school children are helped on the road to a better life.


(The author is a freelance reporter specializing on women, children, reproductive health and religious issues. Names of the minors interviewed in this story have been changed to protect their identities.)

‘Angel Tree’ launched in fight vs child labor

June 22, 2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Labor officials in Central Mindanao on Thursday launched “Project Angel Tree” in this city in a bid to free children from the bondage of labor.

The launching of the project in the region coincided with the country’s observance of its 110th Independence Day anniversary.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Ma. Gloria A. Tango, Department of Labor and Employment director for Central Mindanao, said the country hopes to eliminate child labor through the Philippine Program Against Child Labor.

“Project Angel Tree is a vehicle for providing child laborers and their families’ wishes for assistance. The wishes may come in the form of food, clothing, livelihood, education, training and medical assistances, counseling and mentoring,” she said.

The project aims to encourage the community, represented by the Angel Tree, in giving relief to the sufferings of child laborers and their families, she said.

The labor department will serve as broker between child laborers in need of assistance and those willing to extend the needed assistance, Tango added.

The labor executive said the city social welfare office here has initially identified 40 child laborers “whose needs were written in a wish registry.”

Angel Tree, according to the labor department, is a symbolic tree that “bears fruits for child laborers.” The fruits will come in many forms, as child laborers are as diverse as their needs.

This means the Angel Tree represents a broad array of social services that will be made available to child laborers.

Its objective is to improve the conditions of child laborers by providing them even for their most basic needs.

It also seeks to educate bystanders and transform them into allies and advocates of child labor elimination.

Tango appealed to business companies, employees and civic organizations to support the Angel Tree project to contain incidence of child labor in the area.

Incidentally, in 2002, the International Labor Organization (ILO) declared June 12 as World Day Against Child Labor.

ILO director general Juan Somavia said the event is commemorated around the world “to help spread the message that child labor remains a serious problem and that we must do more to combat it.”

This year’s theme — “Education is the right response to child labor” — focuses on the importance of education as a major strategy in preventing and eliminating child labor, Tango said. (BSS)

Binmaley mayor deplores sub-standard materials

June 20, 2008

BINMALEY–Upon seeing that substandard materials are being used to repair schools here damaged by Typhoon Cosme, Mayor Simplicio Rosario has immediately ordered a halt to the ongoing reconstruction work in two schools

Rosario, an engineer and a contractor prior to entering public service, said he personally saw, while he was distributing free school bags and notebooks to school children in his town, that the steel being used by the contractor of the Department of Education (DepEd) is only 9 millimeters in size which is not enough to hold trusses.

“This is not fit for building construction,” an angry mayor said, adding that it puts the children and the school staff at risk in the event another natural calamity, especially an earthquake, hit the town.

Stopped by the mayor were the rehabilitation of Binmaley Central Elementary School and Binmaley North Central School, two of the most heavily-damaged schools.

Rosario asked the contractor to present to him the design for the repairs, and he was told that the reconstruction blueprint came from the DepEd central office and no coordination was undertaken with the town’s engineer.

The mayor also stressed that while the town is grateful to the DepEd’s immediate assistance in the aftermath of the calamity, the department must not compromise safety of the schoolchildren.

Meanwhile, the school opening here went smoothly on Tuesday, June 10, despite the extensive damage brought by the typhoon on May 17.

Eduviges de Vera, principal of the Binmaley North Elementary School, told The PUNCH that they have adopted two shifts for the classes to accommodate all students owing to the lack of classrooms.

It was the school’s Gabaldon building that houses eight classrooms, the principal’s office, and the school clinic that was badly damaged.

De Vera expressed optimism that the rehabilitation will be finished soon. #

The scourge of child pornography

June 10, 2008

CHILD pornography is here—and quite for some time now. While everybody is busy brawling about the anomalies of this government that is doubly busy, too, doing a wag-the-dog to distract the populace from falling further into the pit of dismay, child porn producers are busy prowling the streets for more and more victims.

Optical Media Board chief Edu Manzano reports of kids (who should be attending kindergarten but are not because their parents are either busy queuing up for a square meal of rice or selling their kidney for a day of opulence) who are brought by their very own mothers to pose as “talents” in a porno film of sorts. Disgust is a very mild reaction to seeing a 4 or 6 year old forced to do a sexual deviance that normal couple would not even dare. While adult pornography is bad enough, child pornography is indescribably worse.

It is the market, which no longer hides in the closets but even shouts in Quiapo and in malls, that dictates the course of child pornography. And while it is presently getting insatiable, the producers will be there to fill the “need”. Reports have it that it only takes Ten Thousand US Dollars for foreigners to produce a full-length child porn film. And parents of child porn talents go home seemingly well compensated with Forty Thousand Pesos after all is done.

It is cold. It is silent. It is devastating.

In a pastoral letter entitled “Welcoming Them for My Sake”, issued in 1998, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), says: “Our voices cannot be loud enough, our words strong enough to condemn this evil among us. The cries of abused children reach up to the God of justice in a call for vengeance. We know that their lament invokes compassion from the God of Love…And to those who inflict pain and wound the innocent, our Lord has harsh words: ‘it is better for anyone who leads astray one of these little ones who believe in me, to be drowned by a millstone around his neck in the depths of the sea.’ (Mt. 18:160).

The blight of child pornography may be traced mainly to poverty—the kind of poverty that has emboldened unprincipled producers, business and pedophiles. But the evil of destroying our very own children simply transcends the social impact of poverty. Virginia, there is really more to it than just the exigency of an empty wallet.(CBCPNews)

Parents denounce illegal fees collected by principal

June 5, 2008

Silang, Cavite: About 1,000 parents of students enrolled at Bulihan National High School staged a protest rally at about 7 a.m. Wednesday, calling for the ouster of Bessie Medina, the school principal, for allegedly authorizing the collection of several fees not endorsed by the DepEd such as acrobatic fee, P50; field trip, P60; Science camp, P40; acquaintance party, P30; computer fee, P300; canteen rental, P300; film showing, P75; medical fee, P70; Bingo, P10; commendation fee, P70; and big canteen, P25,000 per month.

Eleven barangay captains who supported the rally took turns in addressing the crowd, while councilors Lamberto de Castro and Gigi Loyola talked with the leaders of the protesters to encourage them to practice sobriety during their protest rally.

Silang chief of police, PCI Christopher Olazo, deployed some 50 policemen with headgears, shields and truncheons around the vicinity to avoid any untoward incident.
— Roger Limpin(ManilaTimes)

ON THE HYPOCRISY OF PRES. ARROYO’S CALL TO LOWER TUITION RATES : Privilege Speech of Rep. Teddy Casiño, Bayan Muna

June 3, 2008

ON THE HYPOCRISY OF PRES. ARROYO’S CALL TO LOWER TUITION RATES

Privilege Speech

Rep. Teddy Casiño (Bayan Muna Party-list)

14th Congress, House of Representatives (First Regular Session)

June 2, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to avail of the privilege hour to speak on the welfare of the millions of Filipino youth who are being deprived of their right to education.

Pasukan nanaman po, Mr. Speaker, at kinakabahan nanaman kaming mga magulang dahil tiyak na magtataas nanaman ng matrikula ang mga bata.

School is about to start and once again, we are saddened by reports that many higher education institutions or HEIs are about to increase their tuition and other school fees. This, even with the reality that the whole nation is suffering from the soaring prices of rice, oil and power, and other basic needs.

As if responding to every parent’s annual fear of another round of school fee hikes, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself has issued an order for all state colleges and universities to freeze their tuition rates for the coming school year. She likewise made an appeal to all private education institutions to do the same.

Fine.

Normally, such pronouncements, by the President no less, would have been welcomed by this representation. After all, I am the principal author of a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on tuition fee increases. Also, since my entry into Congress, I have consistently fought against tuition fee increases especially in our state colleges and universities.

But Mr. Speaker, something about this recent populist pronouncement by the President leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And let me tell you why.

Unang-una, kwestyunable ang timing ng announcement ng Presidente. Ginawa po ito matapos ang pagpoproseso ng mga rate increases para sa darating na pasukan. Samakatuwid, tapos na po ang labanan, Mr. Speaker, nang nagsalita si Presidente. The fact is that the period for consultation and approval of tuition fee increases has long been finished, making the President’s appeal an empty piece of populist rhetoric.

But the hypocrisy of the presidential pronouncement goes deeper than that.

The fact is, it was the President herself who was instrumental in allowing schools to hike their tuition and other fees without limit and without fear of any sanction.

Allow me to quote an Inquirer report dated January 9, 2008:

“ MANILA , Philippines – Good news for owners and operators of private tertiary schools nationwide but bad news for students and parents.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently gave private educators the go-signal to lift the ceiling on tuition and other school fees earlier imposed by the government, “provided there would be consultations with students, as well as the parents,” top officials of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) quoted her as saying.

“Arroyo arrived at the decision after a series of meetings with CHED, Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) and the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), among other groups.”

In other words, the President is saying one thing but doing the other: she is appealing for school owners not to raise fees while, on the other hand, assuring them that they can raise their fees, sky’s the limit. Iba ang salita, iba ang gawa, Mr. Speaker. It was due to the President’s intervention that the cap on school fee increases that the CHED tried to impose starting last year was lifted.

For the record, Mr. Speaker, let me inform you that during several hearings of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in the 13th Congress, we reiterated that CHED had the power and the mandate to regulate tuition and other school fees. In particular, I remember the vice chairperson of the committee, then Rep. Abayon, berating CHED officials for exempting schools from the mandatory consultation process as long as their fee increase was below the inflation rate. Members of the committee were of the strong opinion that this was illegal and patently unconstitutional.

Partly in response to Congress’ representations, CHED eventually amended its guidelines and procedures on increasing tuition and other school fees, also known as CHED Memorandum Order 14 of 2005. Through subsequent orders (CMO No. 15 s. 2005, CMO Nos. 05 and 42 s. 2006, and CMO No. 7 s. 2007), CHED imposed a cap on tuition and other school fee increases to within the prevailing inflation rate. It also reiterated the requirements for student consultations and the proper disbursement of the incremental proceeds of such fee increases among school facilities, teachers’ salaries and profits.

Samakatuwid, Mr. Speaker, nakinig sa atin ang CHED. It was one of those rare moments where the Executive branch actually listened to us. The cap on tuition increases and other amendments to CMO No. 14 were supposed to be implemented for school year 2007-2008.

However, on Feb. 19, 2007, in a speech before the biggest organization of private school owners, the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), then CHED Chair Carlito Puno announced the immediate and sudden suspension of CMO No. 14 and its amendments.

A day later, on Feb. 20, Puno issued an unnumbered memorandum to this effect and reinstated the older guidelines, CMO No. 13 series of 1998. The announcement and the ensuing unnumbered memo were maliciously issued a few days before the conclusion of campus consultations on school fee hikes.

We were all caught flat footed by this move, Mr. Speaker, especially since it was made too late in the day when summer vacation was about to start and the public was starting to be riveted by the election campaign. Nasalisihan po ang mga estudyante at mga miyembro ng Kongreso.

The reversion from CMO No. 14 to CMO No. 13, Mr. Speaker, essentially removed the cap on tuition and excluded miscellaneous and other school fees from the consultation process. In other words, it removed whatever clout there was that CHED and the students gained through CMO No. 14.

We later discovered that CHED’s actions were made at the behest of President Arroyo after she met with COCOPEA.

Let me quote a COCOPEA memo circular on the matter:

“Please be advised that after a meeting COCOPEA had with President Macapagal-Arroyo last week, the President took the initiative to order the creation of a review team…The review will also cover CHED Memorandum Orders No. 7, Series of 2007; No. 42, Series of 2006; and No. 14, Series of 2005. Hence, the suspension of these CMOs.”

The President’s orders and the subsequent cancellation of CMO No. 14 resulted in tuition increases of 6-20% in tuition and as much as 90% increases in other fees, including miscellaneous fees and the following nebulous charges: energy fee, sports development fee, testing materials fee, computer fee, library fee, test paper fee, audiovisual fee, aircon fee, insurance fee, late registration fee, ad infinitum, ad naseum.

Samakatuwid, Mr. Speaker, dahil sa kagagawan ni Pangulong Arroyo at ng CHED, nagatasan ng husto noong isang taon ang ating mga estudyante at kanilang mga magulang.

And this year will be no different because the same set of policies will prevail, with the President again meeting the school owners before making a belated and totally toothless appeal for them not to raise fees. Just two weeks ago, the CHED disclosed that 341 higher education institutions are seeking to increase their tuition this school year by 8-10%. This represents 19% of all HEIs nationwide.

Matapos tanggalan ng ngipin ang CHED para pigilan ang mga di makatarungang pagtaas ng matrikula, heto si Pangulong Arroyo, umaapila sa mga school owners na huwag magtaas ng matrikula. Ano ang tawag d’yan, Mr. Speaker? Hindi ba isang panggogoyo, isang panloloko? Isang malaking kahipokritahan?

Subalit hindi d’yan nagtatapos ang pagiging hipokrita ng Pangulo sa usaping ito.

Nanawagan siya sa mga SUC na huwag na muna magtaas ng tuition. Pero sa totoo lang, ano ba ang ginagawa ng gobyerno sa ating mga SUCs? Inaabandona, Mr. Speaker. Pinapabayaang magbulok at maglaho.

Sa ilalim ng administrasyong Arroyo, lumiit ang share ng badyet ng edukasyon mula 17.4% noong 2001 hanggang 13.9% na lamang noong 2006. Bilang bahagi ng Gross Domestic Product, ito’y lumiit din mula 3.3% noong 2001 hanggang 2.19% ngayong taon.

Ramdam na ramdam ito sa mga SUCs. The budget allocation for SUCs represents 1.84 percent of the national budget for 2008, far behind the 2.74 percent allocation in 2007. Tuwing budget hearing, Mr. Speaker, ang mga presidente ng SUCs eh parang mga pulubi na nagmamakaawa sa atin para sa dagdag dahil sa sobrang liit ng kanilang tinatanggap. It is a fact that the nominal increase in the budget for SUCs this year is not enough even for shouldering the cost of additional expenditures due to inflation.

While the government boasts an additional budget for state collages and universities, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines , the largest public university in the country is suffering from a budget cut of more than six million pesos. In a glaring manifestation of the government’s abandonment of education, the University of the Philippines itself, the premiere state university, increased its tuition by 300% last year. Furthermore, other exorbitant fees continue to increase uncontrollably.

This whole scenario shows itself as a manifestation of the Arroyo government’s blatant disregard to the education sector and negligence to millions of Filipino youth.

This year’s budget allocation for the education sector represents just 2.19 percent of the Gross National Product, far behind the 6 percent of GNP as pegged by the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century.

Mr. Speaker, this is nothing less than gross negligence on the part of the government.

As a result of this prolonged negligence, our educational system, particularly public tertiary institutions, can accommodate only a small percentage of students who wish to get a college education leaving the liberalized and deregulated private sector, including diploma mills, wallowing in profits.

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues, much as I would like to, there is not enough time to discuss Bayan Muna’s comprehensive critique on the educational system. What I would like to immediately address is the prospect of higher tuition and other fees for the coming school year.

Some proposals come to mind, Mr. Speaker. First, enough of the President’s hypocrisy and populist posturing. If she is really serious about lowering tuition and other school fees, she should allow CHED to impose a moratorium on fee increases in private and public tertiary schools. If not a moratorium, then at least a cap on increases should be imposed. At the same time, CHED should immediately issue guidelines for the refund of additional fees charged this year.

Second, the President should put her money where her mouth is. It is not enough to have a moratorium on fee increases in our SUCs. As important will be a substantial increase in their budgets. I expect that in the next budget hearings, the Executive will present a budget that increases the SUCs share by 30-50% of their existing budgets.

Third, Congress should immediately act on pending measures that seek to regulate tertiary education and ensure its affordability in order to guarantee the youth’s right to an accessible, if not free and quality education. The President should also certify these as urgent.

Thank you Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues.

Vincent Michael L. Borneo
Political Affairs Officer
(Media and Public Relations)
Office of BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy A. Casiño
Rm. 508, North Wing Bldg.,
House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax no: 931-5911

Youth Groups: Arroyo’s Tuition Hike Freeze Lip Service

June 3, 2008

Various youth organizations deemed that the moratorium on tuition increases called by the government is but a mere lip service. They said it was announced too late and is nothing more than a “back-to-school media gimmick meant to appease cash-strapped parents.”

BY RONALYN OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

Various youth organizations deemed that the moratorium on tuition increases called by the government is but a mere lip service.

Over the week, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced a moratorium on tuition hikes in state universities and colleges this year and urged private higher educational institutions (PHEIs) to reconsider their plans to increase tuition and other fees this semester.

Alvin Peters, national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the biggest alliance of student governments in the country, said, “How can anyone take seriously such claims of support for a tuition moratorium, if it is the guilty party making the claims in the first place?” Peters disclosed that it was Mrs. Arroyo herself who gave private schools her blessing to increase tuition rates when she lifted the tuition cap earlier this year.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) suspended its Memo Order 14 which had set a cap on tuition increases based on the national inflation rate, in favor of the defunct CHED Memo Order 13 (CMO 13). The CMO 13 sets no limit in increases in tuition and other fees.

Peters went on to castigate CHED chairman Romulo Neri for making “misleading statements” about the CHED’s current review of tuition hikes filed by various universities and colleges. “Neri is fooling no one when he says that these petitions are still ‘under review’ and subject to the existing inflation rate,” Peters said.

Peters, citing data from CHED, said that 378 out of 1,905 PHEIs had already applied for tuition hikes with the national average in tuition increases at 10.07 percent. The current national average tuition per unit is pegged at P415.99 ($9.508 at an exchange rate of $1=P43.75) . “The average increase is higher than the national inflation rate,” Peters revealed. The average national inflation rate last month was 8.3 percent

“CHED has as good as approved the petition of the 378 private higher education institutions (PHEIs).”

Too late

In another statement, Dion Carlo Cerrafon, Kabataang Pinoy president, said that Arroyo’s announcement is too late as enrollment is already underway in most schools. Enrollment for freshmen, to whom most tuition hikes apply, is already finished for most public tertiary schools as early as the 2nd week of May.

Cerrafon said, “Malacanang’s late announcement will only sow confusion to both schools administrators and students. Obviously, this is another empty back-to-school media gimmick meant to appease cash-strapped parents.”

Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Representative Liza Maza, member of the House Committee on Higher Education, also expressed dismay over the late announcement. Consultations with parents and stakeholders regarding proposals for tuition hikes are conducted during the first quarter of the year. By March and April most colleges and universities have already announced the new tuition and school fee schemes. Maza said, “What’s the use of announcing a moratorium towards the end of May?”

Real culprit

NUSP’s Peters identified the Batas Pambansa 232 or the Education Act of 1982 as the main culprit behind incessant hikes in tuition and other fees as it gives school owners the authority to determine their own tuition rate. Peters urged the Arroyo government and legislators to review the said law.

For state universities and colleges, Peters blamed the government’s poor education spending and the policy of rationalization. “The policy allows state schools to be treated as income-earning entities, thereby encouraging the commercialization of education,” he said.

According to NUSP, the average spending for education from 2001-2005 is only 3.0 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The United Nation’s Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) prescribes the allocation of six percent of GDP for education. Bulatlat

No water, no power for this public school

June 3, 2008

DAET, Camarines Norte — Officers and members of the General Parents Teachers Association of Daet Elementary School here are being blamed after it power and water supply were cut off due to accumulated unpaid bills.

Last May 20, the school’s water service was cut off by the Camarines Norte Water District after the GPTA failed to settle the school’s water bill which has reached the amount of P68,000.

The school also has an unsettled account with the Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative in the bigger much biggeramount of P160,000.

This reporter failed reported to ask Elmer Jacobo, the school principal, since he was out on a conference called by the Department of Education.

Rommel Pajarin, the GPTA president, was also out of town as he was taking review for the bar examination and would not be available until September this year.

Parents said it would take a longer time to solve the problem since the Department of Education has strongly barred all public schools from collecting PTA fees of whatever kind effective this year’s enrolment.(BicolMail)

A Radio Drama for Children, by Children

June 3, 2008

To further inform the general public about children’s rights and to bring out more cases of neglect and abuse in the open, the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA), an organization of children’s rights advocates, would start a radio program that aims to raise the public’s awareness on the plight of victims of child abuse, as well as contribute to its prevention by producing a show that narrates real cases of child abuse. The radio program would have children as anchors, talents, and writers.

BY JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat
Vo. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

Perhaps there is no sector in Philippine society that is more vulnerable than children. Available data regarding cases of child abuse and neglect are already shocking but it is still considered to be understated as it only reflects reported and confirmed cases. According to the 2003 report of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) Child Protection Unit, the rapid increase in the number of cases of abuse filed that year is the result of the continuous efforts of some government agencies and non-government organizations to disseminate information about child abuse and neglect in both the community and national levels.

To further inform the general public about children’s rights and to bring out more cases of neglect and abuse in the open, the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA), an organization of children’s rights advocates, would start a radio program that aims to raise the public’s awareness on the plight of victims of child abuse, as well as contribute to its prevention by producing a show that narrates real cases of child abuse.

Direktang lalahok ang mga bata. Magkakaroon ng batang anchor, batang scriptwriter at batang mga radio drama actors,” (Children would participate directly in the radio program. There will be a child anchor, a child scriptwriter and child drama talents.) Karla Umil, project head of ARCSEA, told Bulatlat. “Magkakaroon din ng mga infomercials, mga dagdag pang kaalaman kung paano maprotektahan ang bata laban sa pang-aabuso,” (The program would also include infomercials that would inform the public on how to protect children from abuse.) she added.

Through the help of  the Samahan ng mga Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (SAMAKANA or Association of United Women) and Samahan ng Maagang Pagkatuto ng mga Bata (SMPB or Association of Early Childhood Education), ARCSEA was able to organize an oral interpretation workshop last May 29-31 in preparation for the radio drama project.

The participants of the said project came from ARCSEA’s communities in Vitas, Tondo, Manresa, Tatalon, Veterans, Talanay and Old Balara in Quezon City, and Olandes in Marikina City. Umil added that the workshop participants are what they refer to as “mga abanteng bata” (advanced children) since they are already organized in their communities. This is the reason why even at a very young age, they already understand the social issues that our country is facing.

Ernesto Marcelo and Jola Mamangun of Kodao Productions facilitated the training of the young but promising children.

An optimistic soul

17-year-old Grace Evangelista is a Marketing student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She is one of the participants in the oral interpretation workshop. Evangelista told Bulatlat that being chosen as one of the junior broadcasters for ARCSEA’s project is one of her greatest achievements.

Evangelista admitted that she had difficulties doing the exercises given to them by the facilitator. But in the end, she told Bulatlat that the workshop helped her boost her self-confidence. “Andito pa rin yung kaba, natatakot na mapahiya at magkamali pero ngayon medyo nabawasan na yung ganung attitude,” (I still feel nervous though. I am still afraid to commit mistakes and be embarrassed, but it has been lessened.)

Evangelista said that, “Isa sa mga ipinaglalaban ko talaga ay makatulong sa mga bata. Kasi ako, okay naman yung estado ng buhay namin kaso everytime na nakikita ko yung ibang bata na hindi nakakapag-aral, inaabuso, sobrang naapektuhan po ako,” (I really want to help children. The economic status of our family is okay but very time I see children who are not able to study or are abused, I get really affected.)

For me, ito ay isang art. Isang sining kung paano ipapahayag sa (pamamagitan) ng drama at paano malalaman ng iba, ng lipunan yung mga bata,” (I believe that drama is a form of art that will help us disseminate information to the broader society about the current situation of children.) Evangelista added.

What’s next?

Kapag nagstart na yung airing sa radyo, marami ng magsusulputang mga kaso,” (When the radio program starts to air on radio, we are expecting that there will be a lot of cases of child abuse that would be reported to us.) said Umil. She added that even during their previous workshops, many of the participants told them that their friends are frequently beaten up a family member or even sexually abused.

This is why ARCSEA would conduct another workshop to train possible peer counselors in every community. “Sila yung magbibigay ng first aid sa kapwa nila bata na inaabuso,” (They would be responsible for giving first aid to children who are victims of abuse)

Umil said that ARCSEA has on going dialogues with other organizations like the Women’s Crisis Center and Children’s Rehabilitation Center to help abused children who would be referred by their peer counselors in every community. “Magkakaroon din ng mga piling mga bata upang magkaroon ng exposure dun sa mga centers para mas alam nila kung ano nangyayari sa mga shelter,” (There will also be exposure trips for selected peer counselors to the different centers and shelters.) Umil added.

The tentative date of the first airing of the radio program is on July 5, 2008, 5:00-5:30 p.m. at DWIZ. Bulatlat

Fr. Shay Cullen: What You Do to Them You Do to Me

May 18, 2008

A group of German visitors went with the staff of Preda Foundation last 5 and 6 of May, 2008 to visit the children at the Reception and Action Center (RAC) and the Manila Youth Reception Center (MYRC) to bring snacks and drinks and see the condition of the children detained as prisoners. In the Action center, the kids are 10 years old and below and lives in a bare and empty room. Since our list exposed on this, the children are now allowed to watch TV for a while in the dining room instead of looking at a bare wall all day. Still, they look down from barred windows on the second floor. But on our previous visit, we were shocked to see that two strangely half dressed young men with dyed hair and strange ways were allowed access to these little children. They were not social workers, not in uniform, no IDs and clearly not qualified to be there. (See photos at http://www.preda.org)

They seemed to be in charge with authority. The little kids were following their orders and were clearly frightened of them. The danger of abuse to the children was present and alarming. The council for the Welfare of Children ought to have professional social workers and psychologists visit the children and see the conditions and talk to them to know if any have been abused.

There must be something bad to hide if charity workers are forbidden to visit the children and bring them food. It’s what Jesus of Nazareth commanded us to do. This situation at the RAC and MYRC is harmful to children and youth. The sub-human conditions are a violation of RA 7610, PD 603 and RA 9344, and also the international conventions on the rights of the child. That’s why they don’t want us to visit. They are in violation of the law and harming the youth and children.

That’s one thing that Former Senator, now mayor of Manila Alfredo Lim, really abhors. He is a strict law and order mayor and his own son, recently arrested for drug offenses is to face the full wrath of the law. We expect him to investigate the sub-human conditions and the malnutrition of the inmates all suffering violations of their rights within a short walk of his office. He will see that this is a cruel and unusual punishment of children and youth and he will order it changed immediately. He is that kind of man.

We were also forbidden to visit the youth detained in the MYRC. But we know from previous visits, photographic evidence and the testimony of former inmates that it is a horrible dungeon and the kids are always hungry, deprived and lives worse than animals. The authorities have barred all outsiders from seeing the sub-human conditions. If there is nothing to hide, then why bar visits by charitable groups licensed and accredited by the DSWD such as Preda workers?

The MYRC authorities are acting like the Burmese Generals, they want us to leave the aid and relief supplies and go away. We will take care of it they say. There is no guarantee that the foods and donations will get to the needy and hungry children. They ought not to blame the staff of Mayor Lim for this. I advise the good mayor to lease out the entire compound for development into a ten story building with a commercial ground floor, a floor for the city offices, another for the courts and one for the social services. With the earnings from the rent and lease he can build a best practice and model children’s home on the city land in Marikina. END

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Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.
e-mail: preda@info.com.ph
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PREDA Information Office
PREDA Foundation, Inc.
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http://www.preda.org