Children in the frontlines of conflict

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

It is good for Commission on Human Rights regional director Arvin Odron to swiftly move for the investigation of a recent incident in which children were seen positioned at the frontlines of a conflict between some vendors opposed to the modernization of Cebu City's Carbon Market and employees of City Hall trying to put up steel barriers to maintain traffic and public order.

Councilor Joel Garganera has issued a similar call to the police, to which Cebu City police chief of operations Police Lt. Col. Janette Rafter quickly acceded, in coordination with city social welfare officers. The official response to the incident is very heartening, considering that the use of children for whatever purpose that may put them in harm's way is always despicable, callous, insensitive, and deplorable.

Garganera managed to capture the incident on video, and while the scuffle did not escalate into real and open violence, it was only by a stroke of good luck that it did not. Had the circumstances been even just slightly unfavorable, those children would have been among the very first casualties. And everybody would have suffered --their families, the city, the Cebuanos. All but the instigators.

Ann Ariosa of the protesting Carbohanon Alyansa denied her group used children in the frontlines. She was quoted in the news denying knowing who the children were. Granting the children were not from the protesting vendor families, the fact remains that children were still at the frontlines. In this day and age children have now become commodities. They can be imported to suit a particular purpose.

In this case, they were used either as human shields to stop lawful authority dead in its tracks or, had things turned out less mercifully, as sad and sorry statistics in the heartless march toward embracing a godless ideology. That those kids were probably from God-knows-where does not absolve protesting vendors from the responsibility of policing their own ranks.

The modernization of the Carbon Market is for the good of everybody. No government undertakes a project meant to the detriment of its constituency. To be sure, the joint venture between the city government under reelectionist mayor Michael Rama and a private firm will result in a few short-term minor inconveniences. But these are being addressed in favor of the vendors.

In the long run, everybody will benefit. Carbon will become the modern, clean, safe, and beautiful market Cebuanos have long dreamed of. And yet some vested interests do not see things that way. They stoke and agitate the minority vendors who resist change and refuse to make a few sacrifices. Giving them some inspiration is former mayor Tomas Osmeña, whose wife is challenging Rama in the May 9 election.

Osmeña is promising free legal services to the protesting vendors should they get into some kind of trouble. Sacrificing public welfare in favor of political interests is a shame for a former father of the city who cannot seem to understand that working for the public good is not a monopoly. Rama has his own vision for the city and Osmeña has to learn to accept that.

There are also other forces at work in the unrest at Carbon, forces that are even larger than Osmeña. Forces that, being godless, have no qualms using children to wage their unending war against democracy and democratic government. Children in the frontlines of conflict is a familiar fingerprint of these groups. That is why an urgent investigation is needed so these instigators can be unmasked.


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