The lucky ones

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Friday, June 6, 2014


IT’S heartwarming that in Davao City, addressing poverty among children in conflict with the law (CICL) and out-of-school youth (OSY) has become a united effort between authorities and the private sector.

In 2012, when robbery incidents involving minors surged in Talomo District, then Talomo Police Station chief Dionesio Abude sought the help of Emar Human and Environmental College president and CEO Lita Montalban to provide free education to CICL and OSY under their responsibility.

PCI Jenette O. Garcia, Women and Children's Protection Desk (WCPD) chief and Police Community Relations (PCR) officer of Talomo Police Precint, said the partnership started when Talomo Police Station was plagued by a series of robbery perpetrated mostly by CICL.

"However, the law of RA 9344 states that below 15 years old have no criminal liability. So pagkatapos ma-endorse sa station, tine turn over sa CSSDO/QRTCC or sa magulang. Then, the next day they are in the station again for the same offenses. P/Supt. Abude and WCPD personnela have decided to dig deeper to somehow minimize these CICL from committing crimes again and again," Garcia said in an e-mail interview with Sun.Star Davao.

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She said Chief Abude decided to adopt the children, who were known notorious members of the Akyat Bahay gang, with the consent of their parents and consultation with the City Social Services and Development Office. Children whose families live in the province decided to stay in a shelter built for them at the back of the police station while others stay with their parents but are still being monitored by WCPD staff.

Garcia said Abude tapped Montalban who is also known for her advocacy in education, saying, "Chief Abude took no hesitation to tap Emar since we shared the same advocacy that is to save children and keep them out of the streets."

Sealed

This partnership was sealed on August 28, 2012 through a memorandum of agreement signed between Abude and Montalban.

The MOA, a copy of which was furnished to Sun.Star Davao, stated the Philippine National Police's mandate to perform functions and duties in preservation of the peace and order in the community. It also underscored that "because of the lack of education, the children became vulnerable to abuse and exploitation while on the streets, the circumstances would somehow force (them to) commit petty crimes to survive but end(ing) up in bars."

The WCPD, PCR, and Family, Juvenile, Gender and Development (FJGD) of the Talomo Police Station envision that the CICL and OSY will be given a chance to have an education and to turn them into a productive and responsible citizens of the community.

In the MOA, the Talomo Police Station shall facilitate and assist the CICL and OSY who want to pursue their education, designate an officer-in-charge that will be responsible in ensuring the extension of terms and agreements and represent the station in matters concerning the project, periodically monitor and evaluate the project and initiate counteractive measure if necessary and provide all necessary support and assistance that partner institution requires for the successful implementation of the project.

Emar, for its part, shall grant application of enrollment of CICL and OSY who are recommended by Talomo Police Station, accommodate CICL and OSY enrolled in the school as scholars with free tuition fees and provide all necessary support and assistance incidental for the success of the project within the confines of their education.

Montalban, in an interview at her office, said: "Chief Abude paid me a courtesy call in 2012 and discussed his plan with the CICL and OSY. I cannot say no to him."

Montalban said they started with 42 CICL and OSY who meet in one classroom on Saturdays for an entire school year. But the following year, they were evaluated and were dispatched to their respective grade and year level in a regular classroom setting.

Garcia said some scholars are in primary and and others in secondary level. "We usually invite or encourage kids especially those endorse to our office. Endorsed kids are those who were found in the streets committing crimes like theft or are victims. Currently we have 2 CICL and the rest are OSY or kids whose parents can't afford to send them to school. Emar is kind enough to allow these kids to study at their school for free without any favor or exchange in return."

The MOA, however, expires in May, 2014. But Emar executive director Lourdes Mission said current Talomo station commander Julius E. Silagan will continue with the project.

Changed

Montalban was elated to share that they have two scholars who now work at the school, saying, "They have changed a lot."

PO3 Haniyah Macatabang said CICL and OSYs enrolled in the project are those involved in theft and robbery cases, "mostly, survival offending cases. They steal for food."

Since the partnership with Emar was established, Macatabang said crimes involving minors have lessened and their number of scholars has grown.

"Our adopted children have encouraged and convinced their former peers to be adopted and go back to school. I can see that their attitudes have changed a bit because they know know how to dream. Like they are telling us they wanted to study harder because they also want to become policemen someday," Macatabang said. "Before, they were telling us that they steal something because they wanted to buy something. Now, it's different."

She feels fulfilled and happy that they were able to change the views and ideals of the kids on the streets. "In order to achieve and get what they want in life, they have to get a good job and in order to do thant, they have to finish school."

Garcia and Macatabang along with other police personnel serve as mothers and guardians of the CICL and OSYs. They are present during school recognition, Christmas parties and other special occasions.

"It is a satisfying feeling knowing that we were able to help these children and that we have become part of their lives as they always depend on us for guidance and advices," Macatabang added.

It is interesting to note that their adopted mothers monitor the kids' performance and behavior in school with their advisers. "We make sure that we always monitor these kids. Every time the teacher would tell us that the child was absent on a specific day, we make sure that we will visit him/her in class. We also conduct home visitations from time to time to check how the kids are doing at home and deliver them food that will be of great help to the family," Macatabang said.

CICL endorsed to them, she said, are not put to jail. They are just being held temporarily in the CICL holding room while they are under investigation and while their office verifies their real age. When they are released, the station encourages them to study and be scholars as well.

Mission

Aside from the CICL and OSY scholars, Emar has also forged an ongoing partnership with Balay Dangupan while the 10-year partnership with Bantay Bata had just ended. The school has already served over 1,000 indigent scholars including abused children since its Sunday High School started in 2001.

While High School scholars are being subsidized by the government through the education contracting system, elementary scholars are entirely shouldered by Emar.

Montalban also extended the scholarship program to Emar's football, basketball, athletics and taekwondo athletes.

"Gusto ko gid sila matabangan. Akong Papa barangay captain sa liblib nga lugar, naa na sa among pamilya ang mutabang (I really want to help them. My father was a barangay chief in a far-flung area and it's inherent to the family to help)," the Soroptimist International Davao president said.

When asked about her drive to provide education to less-fortunate children, she replied: "Kung wala nay misyon, budlayan ka. Maluoy ko sa mga bata (If there's no mission, you'll get tired. I feel for the kids)."

She went on saying, "There's no conflict in an area where every child is given the chance to go to school so they can improve their way of life.”

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 07, 2014.

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