Children rights advocates give Duterte failing grades ahead of Sona
MANILA, Philippines – Before he delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Rodrigo Duterte received failing grades from different children rights advocates for his performance in terms of juvenile justice, education, and other fields.
During a press conference on Friday at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Quezon City, Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez slammed the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs, which has victimized children of all ages — either by being killed or being orphaned by the drug war.
“Dahilan sa illegal na pagpatay na ito, maraming mga kabataan natin ang nagiging ulila, ang nawawalan ng kanilang mga magulang. Hindi lamang ‘yan, meron ding mga bata na nadadamay at pinapatay,” Iñiguez, who also chairs non-government organization Akap sa Bata ng mga Guro – Kalinga Philippines, said.
“Mula kay Kian Lloyd delos Santos, isang Grade 11 minor victim ng EJK (extra judicial killings) sa Kalookan […] hanggang dito sa tatlong taong gulang na si Myka Ulpina, mga batang naging biktima kaugnay nitong war on drugs,” the Catholic leader said.
However, Children’s Rehabilitation Center officer-in-charge Frances Bondoc said there are even instances where children are actual targets of law enforcers.
“Hindi lang simpleng collateral damage ‘yong mga bata, kung hindi sila mismo ang target na ng ating estado. At makikita yan sa mga datos, simula no’ng naupo si Duterte, labing-isang bata na ang napapaslang dahil sa counter-insurgency program,” she noted.
What happened to Delos Santos became one of the most controversial cases involving the administration’s Oplan Tokhang, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) nationwide program against illegal drugs. Police officers initially said that the 17-year-old, who was not in the drug list, fought it out with arresting authorities last August 2017.
However, the Caloocan Regional Trial Court ruled in November 2018 that the three officers were guilty of murder, when they summarily executed Delos Santos despite the teenager surrendering.
Ulpina on the other hand died during an anti-drug operation in Rodriguez. Police were targeting her father Renato Dolofrina, but authorities claimed that Dolofrina used the child as a human shield. Ulpina’s mother has rejected these assertions from police officials.
ROTC and Lowering MACR
Aside from the alleged attacks on children, other advocates also demanded the government to refrain from implementing anti-children and anti-poor measures, like the lowering of the age of criminal liability and the impending reinstatement of the reserved officer training corps (ROTC).
“Hamon sa atin ngayon na ipakita sa Sona ni President Duterte na maraming mamamayan ang lalabas sa lansangan kapag naipasa itong anti-bata at anti-mahirap na programa,” Salinlahi Secretary General and Save Our Schools lead convenor Eule Bonganay said.
“Panawagan namin sa gobyerno, ‘wag ibaba ‘yong age of criminal responsibility, bagkus gawin nito ang kanyang responsibilidad upang magbigay ng serbisyo, lutasin ang malawakang kahirapan,” he added.
According to Marielle Rugas of Girls for Peace, the government should be reminded of the reasons why the National Service Training Program (NSTP) was placed as an alternative to the ROTC program.
“Kung atin pong babalikan noong 2001, kaya nga po na-enact ang NSTP Act ay dahil po namatay si Mark Welson Chua, isang UST student at kadete na nag-expose sa corruption cases sa loob ng kanyang ROTC unit. At mula po doon, pinatay siya at nakita ang kanyang katawan na lumulutang sa Pasig River,” Rugas said.
“Sa matagal na panahon, ang ROTC program, naniniwala po ang aming organisasyon na ito ay isang avenue lamang ng pasismo, na kung saan ipinapakita lamang nito na never niya ininstill sa mga kabataan ang patriotism, nationalism, at disiplina,” she added.
In the 18th Congress, Senator Ronald dela Rosa — a known Duterte ally and the former PNP chief — has pushed for laws that would bring back ROTC and require young Filipinos to serve in the military.
Critics however have slammed this suggestion, as it would only lead to a militarization of the country’s educational institutions. /jpv
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