By Pet Melliza, The Beekeeper
The Republic of the Philippines in 1989 ratified the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child and, as compliance to its commitment, enacted in 1992 Republic Act 7610 or the Anti – Child Abuse Act.
Both the local ordinance and the international treaty define the child to be anybody below 18 years old. The latter contains 54 articles but has no punitive provisions. RA 7610 has 13 articles and carries penalties – the maximum imposed for the same offenses covered by the Revised Penal Code.
We are reminded of a couple at Binulosan Grande, Calinog, Iloilo, Manuelito and Annabelle Loreno, who got a taste of what RA 7610 the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child proscribe. A team of Army soldiers and the paramilitary CAFGU barged into their home and trained their guns on their five daughters ages three to 14.
In other words all were minors when members of the 61st Infantry Batallion and the CAFGUs surprised them inside their house past noon of January 5.
Annabelle was pounding boiled bananas into “linupak” for lunch. Her daughters sat around the wooden mortar watching her work. Linupak or “linubak nga sab-a” is done by pounding the cooked bananas with muscovado sugar with a wooden pestle and mortar.
Suddenly, two soldiers appeared from the door pointing their M-14 assault rifles on the mother and her five daughters, ordering them not to move or else they would be shot.
The eldest of the brood, at 14, seated near the door, panicked when she saw the barrel of the rifle popped close to her head. She scampered away screaming. In the process, her head hit the wall of the house. Her four younger sisters held on to one another wailing in fright.
The human rights watch Panay Alliance – Karapatan reports that the incident has angers the mother who lifts the pestle and makes a motion of hitting the intruders. At the very least, she has the courage to ask the soldiers what they are up to and warns them of the consequences if their firearms set off and someone gets hit.
One of the soldiers, known only as “Opeña” told them they were looking for members of the rebel New People’s Army.
That was an incident that should not have happened and could have spared the Armed Forces the black eye that followed close to its heels. The soldiers gained nothing from that incident; it merely alientated them from residents.
Annabelle told them there were no NPAs in her house and pointed to the soldiers the way back to the barangay center. Two of her girls, who were going back to classes at Binulosan Grande Primary School, walked with the soldiers. The elder of the two later vomited blood during class. She has recurring nightmare and screams in her sleep: “Tay, di-a sanda dun, paniruhon nanda kami!” (Father, where are they? They would shoot us!”
Annabelle and her children were hungry but that was one instance when they lost appetite for lunch consisting of linupak nga sab-a.
Panay Alliance – Karapatan further reports: “Manuelito Loreno came home late in the afternoon from selling bananas at INCA, Lambunao to learn of what happened. He sought Opeña and the latter told him that it was Rowelo Catedrilla, a barangay kagawad who reported the alleged presence of NPAs in his house.”
It is the obligation of a State Party, which the Philippine is, not only to avoid violating the child’s rights but as well, to investigate, punish the violators and restore the physical and mental health of the child from trauma caused by abuses to its rights.
Article 19 of the Unicef – Convention on the Rights of the Child reads:
1. “States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
2. “Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.”
The girl with recurring nightmare was diagnosed at the Calinog District Hospital to have “anxiety reaction.” The incident traumatized her and will likely haunt her even in her adult life. Panay Alliance – Karapatan observes: “(s)he exhibits odd behaviour, such as tying both hands of one younger sister, laughing without any provocation, beating with her hands as if leading the singing of the national anthem, and placing a younger sister in a sack while laughing.”
“Before the incident, our daughter was reliable with housework and cared well for her younger sisters,” rues Manuelito Loreno. She could tend to her younger siblings for a week when they set out to other barangays to harvest rice. She is almost dysfunctional now but we hope she recovers and soon.
“Once again, we are reminding government armed forces to ensure the safety of civilians, especially children, during military operations”, says Reylan Vergara, Panay Alliance – Karapatan spokesperson.
The Commission on Human Rights in Iloilo City is now investigating the incident. CHR investigators promised to assist the couple in filing proper charges in court.