Briones: Dealing with street children

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SunStar Briones
SunStar Briones

We are a community besieged, helpless to protect ourselves from interlopers from other parts of Cebu City.

It’s a tad melodramatic for an opening, I know, but the situation that we who live along J. Urgello St. in Barangay Sambag 1 find ourselves in demands it to attract readers’ attention.

I think the young ones call it “clickbait” or something like that.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s how to deal with the street children who have invaded our neighborhood.

I have written about this problem so many times, you might think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.

And you’re right. I am. And I will not stop until the matter is properly addressed.

Don’t get me wrong. Officials of Barangay Sambag 1 as well as members of the Abellana Police Station have not been remiss in acting on complaints.

But they, like the residents, can only do so much before they find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

It has been awhile since I touched on the subject. I try to ignore the issue. After all, I do have a life. Sort of.

I look the other way when they litter and play illegal games by the roadside in broad daylight. They’re kids. What do you expect?

I try not to be offended when a girl of around 12 spouts vitriol that can make a pro blush. I guess she has every right to express herself.

I don’t shoo them away when they press on to me to beg for change. After all, they’re still people and deserve a modicum of respect.

I try to make excuses for them to make myself feel less guilty because deep down inside I consider them as vermins.

There. I said it.

But it doesn’t change the fact that they have become a menace.

I started complaining about their presence during the lockdown. It was hard to ignore them since they were the only ones outside, milling around. Their shrill shrieks broke the quiet of the night.

Maybe I was jealous of their freedom. Maybe I made them my scapegoat for the uncertainty and insecurity I felt during those tumultuous times.

That was when I became acquainted with the police station and the barangay hall.

I became the hysterical middle-aged man who cried “Kids” at least twice a week.

Then guilt got the better of me. I was becoming too obsessed. And with what? A group of kids who were unfortunate enough to be born on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.

But I have my limits.

A few weeks ago, I found a boy inside our property about to enter the kitchen door.

The other week, I found myself in the middle of a gang war: frail little bodies throwing bottles of softdrinks at each other, pedestrians scampering to safety, and jeepneys stopping to avoid getting hit.

I reported the incident to the police. They said they would send somebody. But when I returned from work and asked, no police ever came.

Not that I could blame them. The children run in all directions when they sense police presence. Had they gone the children would have all but disappeared, but pieces of broken glass would have been everywhere.

Two days after that, several street children entered my grandmother’s eatery and started molesting customers. A fight had broken out outside involving two teenage girls. The loser fled inside to seek shelter and was followed by several others. They ignored the diners’ pleas to leave.

I arrived and started taking a video of the group. Mind you, I don’t know if that was legal or not, but I had to record the whole thing so the authorities would believe me. So they wouldn’t think me silly for minding these children.

Only then did the children go. But they continued to hang around the vicinity.

I rushed to the Abellana Police Station and showed the officer-on-duty the video. This time, he took immediate action.

In five minutes, a patrol car was outside our property. No kids, but they left the mattress, where they lounged around throughout the day and night. The police saw that and started to gather the mattress and the other garbage in the area to dispose of them.

Next, the barangay came. I also showed them the video. They explained that the children are not from Sambag 1. They said they conduct rescue operations almost every day. Before returning them to their respective barangays, the barangay provides them with a snack and a new pair of slippers. But the children come back the very next day.

Like clockwork.

I understand that the police and the barangay, just like the residents, can only do so much. And I am thankful for all their hard work. But what are we supposed to do? Some establishments in the area are saying the children are now stealing from them.

What next?

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