Children Still in the Storm?

“Kami support lang kami. Kung baga, kung ayaw nila, wala kaming magagawa. Kung mag-file ng case, sasamahan namin” (We are here only to support the victims and their families. If they don’t want to seek redress, we could not do anything. But if they decide to file a case, we accompany them.) Rivera said. He added that most of the families of the victims are afraid to seek justice because they are being intimidated by the military. He shared that there were times that despite an ongoing autopsy, soldiers would still call the family to persuade or threaten them not to file charges.

“Yung nagsasalita lang yun talagang willing ipaglaban yun katotohanan pero iilan lang yan,” (Those brave enough to speak out are determined to fight for the truth; but there are still few of them.)

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), an NGO assisting child victims of state violence, accompanies the child victims and their families to seek redress from different government agencies. “Trooping yun tawag namin dun. Nagpunta sila (bata) sa pillars ng justice system na makakatulong sa kanila,” (We call it trooping. The child victims go around and seek redress from the pillars of the justice system.) Rivera said, citing an activity of CRC last December 2007 as example.

The children who joined the last trooping came from Tondo, Surigao, Quezon province, and Cagayan Valley. There were also Moro children whose fathers are detained because of suspicions that they are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

They first went to the House of Representatives to have a dialogue with the head of the Committee on Children. However, “Humarap yun chief of staff, nagkwento yung mga bata. Pero in the end, ang sabi wala kaming magagawa,” (The chief of staff of the head of the committee accommodated us. The children related their stories. But in the end, the chief of staff said that they could not do anything.) Rivera said.

Macaspac told Bulatlat that they also went to the Senate but they were told that the senators were busy. However, they soon found out that they were having a Christmas party that day. Since most of the victims came from Mindanao, they also tried to have a dialogue with the Mindanao Affairs Committee in the Lower House. Unfortunately, they were also having a party at that time.

“So frustrating sa mga bata kasi yung isang kinausap nilang congressman, ang tingin agad sa kanila ang approach ay manghihingi ng pamasahe. Supalpal. Yung ibang congressman, namigay lang ng pera without the benefit of listening” (The children were so frustrated. One congressman they talked with thought that they were just asking for money for transportation to go home. Others gave money without listening to the children.) said Rivera.

Lastly, they went to the Commission on Human Rights and talked to the representative of the children’s desk department. They were granted a dialogue with Commissioner Dominador Calamba. “Magshe-share palang yung mga bata eh siya na yung nagtatatalak. Worse dun, magshe-share yung bata na pinagbintangang NPA pero ang sabi ni Calamba eh baka NPA ka talaga,” (The children were just starting to share their stories when Commissioner Calamba started talking at length. Worse, when the children shared that they were being accused of being members of the NPA, Calamba replied that the children might really be NPA members.) Rivera told Bulatlat.

Macaspac added that during the processing of the children’s perception on the activity, “Umiyak sila eh. Pero yun iyak nila more on sa galit” (They were crying because they were angry.). Rivera said that the experience was very traumatic for the children and they were full of negative feelings. “Frustrated na sila. Baka makita natin nagmamartsa na yan. Wala na silang option eh,” (They are frustrated. We might see them marching in the streets one day. Because they felt that they did not have any option.) added Rivera.

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