Briones: Rugby-sniffing street kids as poll issue

I TRY not write about politics on a Sunday, considering I have two days in the week to do just that. I usually reserve this column for issues close to my heart, like calling the attention of authorities to the plight of rugby-sniffing street children.

Yes, they're still out there, eking some sort of existence--if you can call it that—bereft of parental care and guidance, left to fend for themselves.

So I find it difficult to understand how some politicians manage to promise the moon and the stars yet ignore this very matter.

It's not like these young stragglers are hidden from view. Far from it. They're everywhere. They usually come in groups. Barefoot and disheveled. Sometimes, they ignore passersby. Sometimes, they accost.

To the unlucky pedestrian who has had encounters with them, it's a disconcerting feeling.

I should know. I encounter them almost every day when I walk from the office on P. del Rosario St. to the Cebu City Sports Center for my daily jog.

And I'm not trying to be sanctimonious here. I admit avoiding them like the plague when I see them. And I have, on occasion, barked at them for nudging me for a coin. Trust me, there's no love lost between me and them, especially when I see them inhaling from a plastic bag that I know contains the solvent rugby.

However, I always have to remind myself that they do this to alleviate their hunger. Once “high,” they forget that gnawing feeling in their empty stomach. They forget whatever problems they might have at home, that is, if they have one.

But whatever their problems are, these must be so dire to drive children as young as seven or eight years old to inhalant abuse.

Did you know the addiction causes permanent damage to the brain, as well as “cause loss of memory, confusion or disorientation, distorted perception of time and distance, hallucination, illusion, nausea and vomiting?” That it “leads to muscle cramps and weakness, numbness of limbs, abdominal pains, damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver.”

I wish former senator Kiko Pangilinan had authored a law to ensure these kids wouldn't be subjected to such mental and physical torture instead of coming up with the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which basically requires law enforcement agencies to turn over juvenile delinquents who commit crimes to social services for rehabilitation.

I know he meant well, but Pangilinan garnered several criticisms for failing to nip the problem in the bud.

Anyway, as I said in the beginning of this column, I will make an exception today and not write about a largely ignored social problem since tomorrow the local and national elections will be held. Millions will troop to the polling precincts to pick their choice of councilors, vice mayor, mayor, congressional representatives, senators, vice president and president.

I hope the candidates they have in mind can and will address the problem of rugby-sniffing street children. And I don't mean sweeping them under the rug, so to speak, or hiding them behind high walls. No.

The government must first reach out to parents, and convince them to take better care of their children or face consequences.

It would be unfair to place responsibility for a child entirely on the state. It's not like the state took part in their conception. And don't forget, these street children never asked to be born.

On that note, where was I? Oh yes, the elections….

***

I'd like to greet my mother Carolina Jaca Briones and my goddaughter Cathy Lyn Asignar Banaay “Happy Mother's Day”!

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