Hit but no run
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2019 - 12:00am

It was a “Hit” but no run happened, and I’m not talking Baseball here.

While doing a leisurely “Black Saturday” drive, a very good friend suddenly found himself bumping a five-year-old boy who was using city streets, islands and flower boxes as his personal playground. The long and short of it was that the boy ended up with a bloody nose and slight wounds on one foot. Within minutes they were in the emergency room of a nearby hospital for the standard trauma screening such as X-rays, head scans, and first aid.

While all of that was going on, my friend and his wife who were Chinese Filipinos were both going through the nerve wracking trauma as well as the apprehension of what could happen to them in the hands of relatives, local authorities, one of whom took his license, and kibitzers suddenly popping out of nowhere setting themselves up as intermediaries. Fortunately I lived nearby so I was at the hospital within five minutes on a traffic free day. As slight as the accident was, it was no less frightening for all concerned. But what really shocked me was the admission of the boy’s stepfather that the incident was the second for this kid and that his 12-year-old brother has been in such situations three times!

We had no reason to suspect or believe that they were doing the “accidents” on purpose nor were they part of some syndicate preying on unsuspecting people in nice cars. These children don’t qualify as street children because they have what they call a home somewhere in the interiors of their city. They are simply kids with nothing much to play with or to watch, except their imagination, their feet and their legs that they use for their games on the streets. There are no nearby playgrounds and there is really nothing to do at home. The only time they get to watch TV is when none of the adults are at home or are in control of TV programing choices.

Two weeks ago, I made mention in this section of cases where young kids are being kidnapped by syndicates that force them to sniff glue, starve them, beat them and force them to beg in city streets. On the average we read or hear of one or two accidental rescues by family members or friends. Rarely or almost never do we hear of police operations aimed at capturing kidnappers. When school kids tell the media about people roaming in vans and grabbing girls or kids, the SOP of the PNP is to say that such claims by parents and kids are “inconclusive” or “unverified.” Well like I said before my own accountant from Channel 2 was grabbed at the BIR head office in Quezon City and ended up in Baguio City only because the media did not let up on the coverage. My caretaker in Lipa City was also grabbed into a van, her ATM card used to clean out her life savings. They were set free by their captors and not rescued by the police.

In addition to these two types of frightening scenarios, there is also the growing problem of children begging or harassing patrons of restaurants and stores that are located outside malls. Here in Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig, restaurant owners and patrons have had to deal with street kids or teenagers who enter establishments or hound people as they leave the establishments. It definitely creates a very undesirable tension and upsets people who feel that their privacy is being violated. Unfortunately the only thing that waiters and owners and customers can do is to tell the kids to leave, wait outside or in some cases chase them away!

The question is, when will the DSWD and the PNP and our legislators going to create the solution to the problem instead of coming up with excuses or passing the buck among themselves. Lowering the age for criminal liability among juveniles seems to have worked at reducing the involvement and exploitation of kids in the drug trade and “Akyat bahay gangs”. But there is also a clear need for the PNP to have a task force within a task force to pick up street kids who are begging in the streets in order to find out if they are freelancers or if they are kidnap victims of syndicates or hoodlums. The scope and logistics of the PNP’s “Women and Children’s Desk” have to be expanded so they can have roving operatives or investigators who are directly tasked or who specialize in tracking street kids. Unless someone is in-charge no one will be responsible and nothing will get done.

I don’t really know who the current DSWD Secretary is and that is a sad commentary on his or her public presence. I also don’t know if the DSWD has a dedicated section that deals with the problem of street kids. But if the DSWD has such a section then they can build up a network of informants and officers who can beef up or work together with the PNP and the DILG to get kids off the streets. It is very disturbing to consider that many towns, cities or municipalities actually have “animal control units” with vehicles, vets and dog pounds but many LGUs are blind to the presence of streets kids, blind to the threat of child slavery in their areas of responsibility. How is it possible that we as a people are more conscious of stray dogs, act faster, complain louder for fear of being bitten by askals? But hardly anybody stops to wonder could this street kid begging for food or money be a victim? I sincerely hope the Chief PNP Oscar Albayalde, the DSWD Secretary and DILG Secretary Año would show a little more concern and compassion for child victims by setting up the network.

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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