Children in conflict with the law (CICLs) while away time with basketball at the Valenzuela Bahay Pag-asa (BPA) Youth Rehabilitation Center in the city’s Barangay Canumay West in this file photo. The facility was established during the term of then Valenzuela City mayor Sherwin ‘Win’ Gatchalian in compliance with the Juvenile Welfare Act of 2008 (Republic Act 9355). (Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS Win Gatchalian)
From my keen observation, it is a very sad fact that the Philippines’ current administration’s drug war crisis has fully pressed the pedal of acceleration to more division, hatred, cycles of violence (copycat killings, summary killings, extrajudicial killings, collateral victims of drug war), toxic revenge, and perpetual impunity.
— Literary novelist Angelica Hopes
LET me greet our executive editor and multi-awarded poet and literary genius Edwin Cordevilla advanced happy birthday tomorrow, Friday, 01 October 2021) . . .
WITH many countries reporting serious child abuse in their detention facilities, the torture and abuse of children behind bars are unpleasant truths that may not set us free from guilt, apathy and indifference — but it remains a fact that it is not only in the Philippines’ child detention centers called Bahay Pag-asa (House of Hope) that children and youths are maltreated.
Unfortunately, treating youth as criminals has a traumatic impact that affects children for a very long time and one thing for sure is that the loss of trust and respect for the adult world of authority that allows them to be abused. And the saying goes, “Abuse a child and you make an enemy.”
One time, an autistic 16-year-old son of a political dissident found himself on the spot for sending a message on the Telegram app that was ‘red-tagged by some government officials. The police broke into his house without a warrant, handcuffed, and arrested him.
He was beaten and lodged in an adult jail, treated as a communist rebel. His mother is not allowed to visit him. A lawyer did and reported squalid conditions not fit for an animal. United Nations officials have been alerted and expressed urgent concerns over violations of his human rights. The young boy has been missing since he was taken into custody by the authorities.
The fact is that jail is no place for kids. If youths are rebellious, it is because they are unloved and abused by parents or society. They are born innocent so how come they become angry young people?
Going back to the 16-year-old, during his detention, he became the cell slave. They would beat him by forcibly hanging him in a bar. The government social workers and guards ignored all this.
Born in Negros Occidental, his parents broke up and his father left for Manila. His mother lived with a stepfather who was abusive and beat the young boy repeatedly. When he continued to be abused, he ran away and got involved with insurgents.
He got a free trip on a boat to Manila and tried without success to find his father. He met a friendly family and was given a job as an occasional motorcycle rider in the area. But on one trip, the passenger insisted on being taken to a faraway place. He was stopped by police and arrested for not having a driving license. Also, he was charged with stealing the motorbike as he did not have papers to show.
The owner came to get the motorbike but he was jailed in the Bahay Pagasa. A criminal case was filed against him.
The detention center was for him a hellhole of abuse, neglect, and violence. He slept on the concrete floor and was given bad-tasting expired food. He was forced to clean the filthy toilet, wash the clothes of bigger boys, and suffered severe violence and abuse.
But he was still lucky to be arrested and not to have been shot dead. Having connections with the New People’s Army (NPA) his life could have been snuffed out and tagged as an encounter or he could have been branded as a drug courier and resisted arrest.
As many as 122 children and teenagers have been shot dead by police in the war on drugs where the police enjoy shoot-to-kill impunity. According to a report by the World Organization against torture, the police admit to killing as many as 7,000 suspects, saying they “fought back” and “resisted.” Many children were targets and some were executed while others were caught in the crossfire.