Every school day morning, a child would cross Ocampo St., Naga City, the strip of road of modest width that cuts between the two Naga Central Schools to the Camarines Sur National High School, a road also taken by college students with campuses along Peñafrancia Ave., and they would brave a barrage of vehicular traffic from more than two directions, street vendors and rushing ramblers, a meeting and greeting of leg and motorcycle tire, school bag and side mirror, stroller and four wheeled vehicle, all compressed by obstructions of road side constructions, all under the daybreak sunlight heat or the deluge of rainwater, to the tune of yells of impatient drivers, directions of traffic enforcers, bargains of business, chit-chat of minders along with the sound of the flag ritual hymns; a chaotic “good morning, class”. I just hope this is not a representation of the world that welcomes the Filipino children; or is it?
Lest we forget, November is National Children’s Month in the Philippines.
I’m trying hard to restrain letting out spiels of sarcasm in the ironic humor, and give my nod of respect to the event’s theme which is “BATA: Iligtas sa Droga”. Okay, okay, it is indeed timeless and timely to celebrate children’s rights based on protection from substance abuse. Ever since the British flooded Chinese society with opium and decades later, the CIA would lose control of the cocaine traffic, societies have been crying slogans and moving campaigns for children and youth to “say no to drugs”. (Yet, along the alleys, kids are taking hits and in the clubs, are passing on purple pills.)It is undeniably worth continuing the battle of drug prevention (which is becoming quite a cliché since it has become much like a stain that doesn’t get washed off; it might as well be part of the fabric.) But on an optimistic and idealistic spirit and perspective, yes, let’s carry on the struggle against marijuana, meth, morphine or whatever they’ll think of next for the safety and security of the child. Protection from drugs is indeed a worthy subject of a celebration of a whole lunar cycle for children.
It is also timely. It is timely because the President has brought his administration on a warpath against pushers and addicts. War on drugs seems to be the primary direction taken on by the state. This theme is unsurprisingly only consistent with the current administration’s drive of public service. However, it is quite tempting to note the sarcastic irony of the promotion of protection for children from drugs; when this drug war has notably claimed lives of children as its casualties. Along with Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos, “at least 54 people aged 18 years old and below have been killed in either police operations or vigilante-style killings in Duterte’s first year, according to data from the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center in July 2017”. Once again, lest we forget, de los Santos “was killed without showing no signs he
fought back against the police – contrary to the authorities’ claim that the policemen shot him dead in “self-defense”. Against the backdrop of National Children’s Month and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, he is a child, for crying out loud, Mr. officers. (https://www.rappler.com) “While several dozen children under 18 have died in drug war-related killings since June 2016, circumstances suggest that PNP deliberately targeted” minors, Reynaldo de Guzman and Carl Angelo Arnaiz, two months before the children’s month. (https://www.hrw.org) “Althea Barbon, 4, Francis Manosca, 5, and Danica Mae Garcia, 5, are among the youngest of the victims of the bloody drugs war”. “Danica Mae Garcia, 5, was shot in her grandparents’ courtyard by assassins hunting down her grandfather.” www.telegraph.co.uk)
Forgive me now in pointing out the laughable irony of the theme of promoting children’s rights in a slogan of protecting them from drugs.
As the sun sets and classes are dismissed, Ocampo St. is relatively less chaotic. Children in white and blue or the occasional red or checkered line the sides of the two roads perpendicular the street on its two ends, hopelessly, desperately petitioning for rides home. Some groups of pubescents and adolescents take the option of basking in the youthful bliss of words and witticisms whilst walking down the roads, seemingly giving up the hope of a vacant tricycle or jeepney stopping by. Once, I took a ride with a father and a Grade 1 pupil. Upon getting off the vehicle, I heard the father explaining to the mother waiting by the street that the child had been waiting for a ride home for about an hour already. Welcome to the mean, old world, child.
““See that you do not despise one of these little ones”