Oro to enforce child protection ordinances-A A +A
Sunday, September 1, 2013
TO ATTAIN the goal of becoming a “child-friendly Cagayan de Oro,” the City Government would strengthen its campaign on “Hapsay Sagip Bata sa Dalan” through enforcing ordinances that protect minors from any forms of addiction ranging from internet gaming, alcohol and to other substance abuse and exploitation.
Teddy Sabugaa, head of city social welfare and development office (CSWDO), said the city will enforce ordinances on children’s protection program such as regulations on the use of internet cafés among kids and prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages to minors.
Maricel Casiño-Rivera, city information officer, said the ordinance regulating the operations of internet cafés disallows a child (anyone who is an elementary or high school student) from using the services of an internet café during regular school hours for online or network gaming, e-mail, chat or any other services.
Students, she added, are only allowed to enter any internet shops if permission is given by a duly authorized representative of the school or by a parent or guardian.
Under the ordinance, the owners or operators of these internet shops are also ordered to prohibit minors from availing themselves of internet services during school days from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except if they can show a letter of consent or permit signed by their parents, principal or teacher allowing them to access the internet for research or school-related purposes.
For his part, City Councilor Adrian Barba, committee chair on education, said he convened all owners and operators of internet cafés located near the vicinities of schools in the city to remind them to comply with the ordinance.
Barba said “permission” is defined by the city ordinance as something in the form of a written consent and accompanied by the contact details of the duly authorized representative of the school, parent or guardian for verification purposes.
He said all those who attended the meeting were furnished with copies of the ordinance and advised to brief their employees or staff about the law.
Barba said they would conduct a random check in all internet cafés in the coming days.
He said an internet shop that violates the ordinance will face cancellation of its business permit and license, or worse, closure of the establishment.
“This ordinance hopes to protect our children against abuse, exploitation and violence, in all forms and means. This also aims to minimize absenteeism and cutting of classes by the students,” Barba said.
He said he also found out the proliferation of “piso net” or the coin-operated computers with internet connection in different barangays that students are being hooked on.
Meanwhile, Rivera said City Hall has reviewed other existing ordinances that affect children, especially those that prohibit selling of intoxicating drinks, cigarettes and solvent chemicals to minors and prohibiting youngsters to enter cockpits and other gambling places.
Rivera said the ordinance would prohibit storeowners to sell liquors and cigarettes within the 200-meter radius from schools.
She said stores selling alcoholic beverages near schools have been warned, citing a gasoline station across Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School (MOGCHS) and bars near Xavier University.
“These stores know that minors having drinking spree, especially those who are wearing school uniforms, is totally a violation of the ordinance,” Rivera said.
Chemical substance sniffers
With regard selling chemical substances such as vulcaseal and rugby, storeowners have been urged to list down frequent buyers of said brands for monitoring.
Rivera said the Hapsay Bata team recently went on a surprise inspection on stores and areas frequented by the sealant sniffers, hoping to rescue minors who might be using the substance.
Rivera said they would conduct another round of inspections since they have yet to rescue a single minor.
“We use the word ‘rescue’ and not arrest since these children are not criminals,” she said.
Rivera said Task Force Sagip Bata of the CSWDO would take into custody the minors they can rescue and will be put in a shelter.
She said they have come up with a good program where the rescued children will be sheltered, under the supervision of a licensed social worker.
“They will be given proper education so they will not remain forever in the shelters,” Rivera said.
Rivera said the CSWDO made an ongoing ocular inspection of the three existing shelters, the Tahanan ng mga Kabataan, Boys town and the Mother Therese of Hope Center.
Based on the result of the inspection, Rivera admitted that the previous city administration did not take care of the shelters.
She said they would renovate the shelters and provide educational materials, rooms, and other facilities so that these children can call these shelters their home.
Another ordinance the team will enforce is on the prohibition of exploitation of minors as barkers, “konduktor” (driver’s aide), or fare collector of public utility vehicles (PUVs) in the city.
Rivera said they would make sure that operators or drivers would not abuse minors.
But if situations cannot be prevented due to poverty, Rivera said, “We will ensure that these workers will be provided with proper benefits.”
Rivera warned that appropriate fines, penalties and imprisonment would be meted out against those violators such as individuals, drivers or owners of motor vehicles, establishments and stores.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 02, 2013.