"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Children Casualties of Poverty in the Philippines

NPA AmazonThe sad plight of children born in poverty and the dangers they faced on a daily basis has its cruel psychological and physical impact on the innocent existence of a young life. If life was indeed beautiful Philippine society has to respond to this nagging problem we have unwittingly created for them.

Children with Guns

Surfing the internet I came across this picture of an Amazon NPA in the outskirt of Camarines Sur province while taking a break in their preparation for the anniversary celebration of the founding of the New Peoples Army the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The surreal portrayal of tranquility amidst the raging armed conflict in the countryside offers a romanticize perception of an otherwise violent culture brought about by society’s inequality.

How it will end, when will it end and how many more lives must the country sacrifice in the struggle for ideological dominance of interpreting the world in this day and age is truly baffling. NPA Child Soldier

The haunting picture of the child warrior in training perhaps is an indication of worsening crises of intensified resistance to an equally violent culture of impunity. Indeed scary and sad to see a young innocent child her gun pointing at those who see her, sending a chilling message of a violent gory war where the only rule is kill or be killed. Has the conflict reached the lowest ebb of man’s inhumanity to man that children are now used as pawns trained as a killing machine in a prolonged armed conflict where no clear winner emerges? Or is this a sign of a worsening grinding poverty where adults and minors alike are pushed against the wall of desperation in their struggle for subsistence. Sadly while we may lament and get shocked at the loss of childhood innocence against the backdrop of grinding poverty and armed conflict how long does it really last in this kind of environment?

Framing Children "with" Guns

In Campostela Valley, Southern Philippines a nine year old girl just finishing elementary 2nd grade was shot twice and killed in cold blood by military soldiers. Grecil Gelacio is clearly and undeniably a civilian and a minor that was tagged by the soldiers involved in the shooting to justify their murderous carelessness of killing civilians with impunity as a communist rebel. Brigadier General Carlos Holganza commanding officer of the 101st Infantry brigade shamelessly stands by the report of his men that the fatal shooting was part of a legitimate encounter with the communist insurgents and that Grecil is a rebel. This despite the insistence of her kin and friends attesting to the fact that she is not a communist much less a child warrior but a regular student and a typical child in the neighborhood who loves watching TV shows. Karapatan a human rights group has also pointed an accusing finger at the modus operandi of the “authorities” penchant for planting evidence to cover up their misdeeds of killing civilians.

Grecil barely as tall as an M-16 A2 rifle measuring 39.60” if the military’s criminal yarn is to be believed was supposedly carrying said firearm which was nowhere in sight according to Eulogio Almasa the village chief (Barangay Captain) and one of those who retrieved her lifeless body.

Life indeed is cheap in the Philippines especially in a society that has no respect or gives any value on the sanctity of human life. In Grecil’s case P1,100.00 or the equivalent of US$24.50 at P45 to $1 conversion rate the amount paid by the callous murdering men in uniform for snuffing the life of a poverty stricken child. Indeed sad and revolting that life we hold so dearly and cherished is just worth $24.50 to these murdering maniacs not even enough to fill my car's gas tank. What are the chances of a poor family getting justice in a society where might is right prevails when they barely survive, or afford to put food on their table? NONE, especially if one is tagged a communist rebel and being poor only exacerbates the problem even more!

In Pork is political tool, not developmental tool by Y. T. Chua & B. B. Cruz of PCIJ 11/6/04 issue is a haunting excerpt from an unnamed congressman:

As one lawmaker notes, "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary."

Are we seeing the signs of a social time bomb about to explode?

(Mangangalahig) Bottom Dwellers

In contrast we see the haunting image of a child captured by Bahag King a Photojournalist that has honed his skills in street photography by literally living and breathing in the tough environment of the urban jungle’s bowel. There are obviously not a lot of choices when we look at the children born in poverty……. Carrying a gun or scrapping the bottom of the nauseating trash of society forced by circumstance to scrounge for a buck struggling to survive in an environment that if indeed hell exist this has got to be it. It is so ironic that while he forage for anything that he can recycle he has manage to groom himself trying to stay neat in a man made mountain of society's unfathomable maggot infested place.

What then is the difference in terms of losing their child like innocence? Early in life having no choice but to take on the responsibility of making a living in the most desperate of circumstance makes one mature beyond a child’s years. In so doing exposing their fragile existence that can either kill them instantly by getting buried in an avalanche of trash or slow death caused by inhaling the toxic fumes emanating from the mountain of trash. A colossal monument symbolizing government neglect, corruption, and mismanagement. The sad reality is once stricken by debilitating illnesses from the ill effects of the constant exposure to these toxic fumes their fate is literally sealed to the coffin. An impoverished poor person that can't even afford basic medicine should they get sick does not have the luxury of being sick. If they are lucky enough to earn enough money to afford a physician a vanishing breed of professionals leaving the country for a nursing job or hopefully not too busy scamming another scandal wracked institution infamous in the last presidential vote buying scam called Phil Health.

Children of the Streets and in Prison

Meanwhile another offshoot of poverty is the growing problem of incarceration of minors in Philippine prisons. Father Shay Cullen who has been in the Philippines for 40 years has been defending children from an unjust penal system and sexual predators. At any given time according to his estimate roughly 20,000 children are in detention exposed to abuse by hardened criminals and torture from sadistic policemen.

Two years ago the nation was shocked and embarrassed when American TV network CNN smuggled a camera inside a Philippine jail with the help of Father Shay Cullen exposing the horrors of squalid prison overcrowding with children and hardened criminals sharing a cramped cell.

According to Cullen’s estimates there are at least 200,000 children in the Philippines involved in prostitution. Despite the campaign against child sexual abuse and the conviction of some high-ranking pedophiles, children are still being used as sex objects by local and foreign predators.

If this is an indication of how Philippine society treats its children then we are doomed and bound to fail, forever sinking in the quagmire of hopelessness. Criminalizing children exposing them to all kinds of dangers to diseases and predators of the pedophile and murderous maniac in and out of uniform is really not a conducive environment in building a strong honorable and just society.

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