Street kids and their daily quest for love, harmony, protection, survival
MANILA, Philippines – Topher, 16, once left his home to escape his family’s abusive hands.
For three weeks, he sought refuge in the rough streets of Parañaque City, begging for alms just to survive.
“Naranasan ko rin ‘yung magpakalat-kalat sa kalye, ‘yung namamalimos,” Topher told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
Topher is what the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child would call a “child in street situations,” or simply put, a street child.
During a forum with stakeholders, social workers and police officers, he was among 17 street children who voiced out their plights and their concerns.
Consolidating their own experiences and their concerns, these children presented their statements and their calls to action, accompanying them with art presentations, such as film, paintings, photography, and music.
Getting the message across
Lily Flordeliz, executive director of Bahay Tuluyan which organized the event, said that the ultimate goal is that the voices of the street children, who are “very marginalized,” are heard.
“‘Yun ang target natin, para marinig yung mga issues at mga recommendations at problema ng mga kabataan,” Flordeliz told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
“Kasi ‘yun talaga ‘yung kulang kasi feeling nila hindi sila napapakinggan or hindi talaga sila pinapakinggan,” she added.
Authorities’ reactions, response
She said it is now up to the authorities and the stakeholders to act on the issues and respond to the call of the children.
“The most important thing is nangyari ito so just wait kung anong reaction o tingnan natin how quickly they can respond to the issues,” Flordeliz said.
“Naiintindihan naman natin na marami silang concerns pero dahil very marginalized ang street children. The most important thing that we have to do is let the message comes across,” she added.
Stakeholders present during the event were representatives from the Child’s Rights Network (CRN), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Philippine National Police (PNP), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, Children’s Welfare Council (CWC), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), among others.
The event coincided with the celebration of the International Day of Street Children
Street kids have rights, too”
Divided into five groups, among the topics they tackled were child labor, education and child protection.
Gabo, who is one of these children, decried the abuse and the unequal treatment that street children are experiencing.
“Yung tingin sa mga batang nasa lansangan ay isang putik na kailangang walisin o kailangan ipagsantabi,” Gabo said in his message.
“Ngunit nais ko po na malaman niyo na ang bawat batang nasa lansangan ay may karapatan din at may karapatan din silang magsalita nang naaayon sa nararamdaman nila,” he added.
Curfew? Where can the homeless go?
One of the policies raised that they deemed unfair is the curfew law, where children under the age of 18 are forbidden to dwell in the streets at certain periods, particularly at night.
“Paano naman yung mga batang walang tahanan, walang matulugan at walang matuluyan?,” one street child, Justin, pointed out.
“Paano naman po kami, kaming mga batang tahanan, kailangan po ba kaming ikulong o palayasin sa aming nagsilbing tahanan?,” he added.
Another street child, Erika, pushed for the abolition of the curfew policy.
“Hindi pantay pantay ang pagtingin at pakikitungo sa amin, alisin ang mga batas na nagtrato sa amin nang hindi pantay. Alisin ang curfew law,” Erika stressed.
The street children also revealed that they are forced to take on physically-challenging jobs just to help support their families.
Child labor, lost youth
“Kinakailangan naming magtrabaho upang makakain at makatulong sa pamilya. Nauuwi kami sa mabigat at delikadong trabaho dahil hindi kami nakapag-aral,” Kim said.
“Hindi namin ramdam na ligtas kami. Napipilitan kaming ibenta ang aming katawan para mabuhay,” she added.
They also revealed that they cannot get an education since they do not possess birth certificates.
Aside from this, they could not also afford the incidental costs of education, even in public schools.
“Maraming mga bata ang tumitigil sa pag-aaral. Wala kaming mga gamit na kailangan namin para sa eskwela at hindi namin kayang magbayad para dito at para sa iba pang requirements,” Reynold revealed.
Surviving in the urban jungle
Other topics discussed were survival and development, health disabilities, basic needs in life and family connections, and participation and freedom.
The children revealed that they are forced to live in the streets due to poverty, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, and no access to medical care.
They called on stakeholders and authorities to provide their families with shelter, and opportunity to have a livelihood.
“Magbigay ng maayos na pagkakakitaan o oportunidad para sa aming magulang, libreng edukasyon at libreng pabahay,” one child said.
Other street children bared the unjust treatment they receive from police officers.
Some boys from Quiapo, Manila, said that that they get tortured by police officers whenever they are apprehended, and even threatened with death.
“Kami pong mga batang lansangan sa Quiapo, Manila kapag naguhuli po kami, tinorture po kami ng mga pulis at minsan po sinasabihan na ‘patayin na yan’,” one boy said.
“Masyado na po kaming ginugulpi at pinapahirapan ng mga pulis sa aming lugar,” he added.
They appealed for just treatment from police officers and fair representation in the government.
“Sana po maiba naman po ang pakikitungo ng pulis tulad sa aming mga batang lansangan dahil po hindi naman kami basura sa daanan at wag po kaming ituring na kriminal lang,” another boy said.
“Sana ‘wag na kaming gulpihin at ituring na kriminal at sana po ‘wag na kaming pagbantaan at patayin,” he added. /gsg
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.