THEY can sometimes be seen walking along the main freeway within urbanized areas sporting worse for wear clothing, and on one of their hands grasping a plastic or bottle of something gooey resembling the form of honey. They stroll with a blank stare and at the same time sniffing this substance like a breathing apparatus. People commonly refer to them as rugby boys.

Just last week, the Angeles City local government gets Seal of Child-Friendly Local Governance award conferred by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for 2015. When I posted the news about it on Facebook last August 3, one of my FB friends commented in local dialect: “Child-friendly yapin! Kaya pin edo darakpan reng "Rugby boys" keng Barangay Santo Rosario na anak ngan keraklan! Congratulations!” (It’s really child-friendly! That’s why we are not apprehending the “rugby boys” who are usually minors in Barangay Santo Rosario!)

Little did my FB friend know that a rescue operation had already taken place days before his comment. The brave members of the BPLD of Angeles City together with CSWDO and the Angeles City Police seek these so-called rugby boys in Santo Rosario and San Nicolas in order to save them. The squad was able to rescue more than 10 sniffing boys. Many of them reside in neighboring towns. The operation was a big hit because the team was able to apprehend the two suspects who were believed to be the supplier of this addictive adhesive to the minors.

The seal was not made out of crotchet. This particular recognition is given to LGUs that surmounted in establishing positive platforms of governance that promote child welfare and rights to survival, development, protection and participation. Angeles City underwent multi-level assessment based on the following criteria: (1) Percentage reduction in the mortality among children below five years of age; (2) Percentage reduction in the number of children under six with below normal weights; (3) Percentage increase in the number of 3 to 4- year-old children attending center-based day care services; (4) Completion rate for elementary schooling; (5) Absence of child labor or percentage reduction in child labor cases; (6) Percentage reduction in the number of children victims of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation (all forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, and exploitation, and trafficking in persons). (7) Safety measures for children in the community and schools; (8) Extent of mainstreaming of Children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation in the core development agenda of LGUs; (9) An ordinance establishing Barangay Violence Against Women and their Children (VAW/C) Desks; (10) 2013 Philhealth accreditation in its main health facility or rural health unit for Maternal Care Services and Primary Care; (11) A Local School Board (LSB) Plan for CY 2013 that is aligned with the School Improvement Plan (SIP); and (12) Completed at least 70% of its LSB Plan for 2013.

And by the way, this is the second time that Angeles City received the award since its first citation in 2014.