Labella told the head, Ambrosio Ibones, that the five children should be brought back to the facility safely as failure to do so would constitute “infidelity in the custody of the children.”
Edgardo Labella/Facebook Photo
Following October 5 escape:10 days to bring all children back
Mary Ruth R. Malinao, Alicia Ivy L. Chua (The Freeman) - October 10, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has given the head of Operation Second Chance 10 days to bring back the five children who have escaped from the facility last October 5.

Labella told the head, Ambrosio Ibones, that the five children should be brought back to the facility safely as failure to do so would constitute “infidelity in the custody of the children.”

The mayor, himself a lawyer, said the custodians can also face sanctions.

The five are among the 20 children in conflict with the law who escaped from Operation Second Chance, which is located in Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City.

House parents and social workers caught up immediately with nine of the children and four others surrendered to authorities last Sunday, one of whom was the one who reportedly planned the escape.

Yesterday, Labella visited the Operation Second Chance in Barangay Kalunasan to inspect the facility and talk to the children. He also brought them food.

“Katong mga nanggawas, ayaw na na ninyo usba (Those of you escaped, do not do it again),” he said.

He explained to the children the importance of having a good future, having a family, and having a decent job.

The Operation Second Chance was built to separate minor offenders from adult criminals. It became operational in 2002.

Labella acknowledged that the children need help, considering that up to 80 percent of the 82 residents of the facility are facing drug cases.

Sixty percent of those residents come from Barangays Duljo-Fatima, Labangon, and Ermita.

Labella said intervention from parents is necessary.

“These are not hardened criminals. They are not a danger to the society. In the eyes of the law, these are still children because they are still minors,” the mayor said.

As far as the drug problem is concerned, Labella said the city will organize a drug summit before the year ends. The cross section of the community will be invited because the “drug problem has metamorphosed into a social problem.”

The parents, academe, and religious sectors will also be invited.

“Para sa bisan unsang paagi, mamenosan gyud nato ang problema sa drogas (So that we can minimize the drug problem in whatever way we can),” Labella said.


Dave Tumulak, chairman of Cebu City’s Peace and Order Council, said earlier that the incident on October 5 happened as house parents were about to serve dinner at past 6 p.m.

The children reportedly charged at the house parents and were about to go past the second door of the dormitory and eventually out of the facility.

Tumulak has said the lack of security personnel may have contributed to the easy escape.

Yesterday, Ibones admitted that the facility is undermanned.

“Ang hinaot unta na ratio jud dapat is 1 to 5 (The ideal ratio is one to five children),” Ibones shared that one of the struggles of the facility is their undermanned situation.

With 82 children housed at Operation Second Chance, the nine house parents and 15 guards are certainly not enough, he said.

Ibones said the children allegedly did not fear the guards during the escape.

“Gatuo mo ani mga bata ra na sila? But no, they know their rights. Ang guwardya gani naay shotgun, pag- babag sa ila, ila ra giingan og, sige pusila mi (You think they are but children? No, they know their rights. When the guards with shotguns tried to block them, they just said, go ahead, shoot us),” he said.

Ibones said the stricter visitation rules at the facility may have prompted the children to escape. For example, visitors now have to undergo a thorough search and frisking following instances when some visitors tried to sneak prohibited items into the facility like cigarettes and drugs, which some children, in turn, sold inside.

 “A stick of Marlboro, which is the favorite among the residents, would cost P200, P4000 for a pack, and 10 thousand pesos for a ream,” Ibones said. JMO (FREEMAN)

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