This year alone, four children have been killed. – Children’s Rehabilitation Center
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – In an instant, Cindy (not her real name), 17, lost her sanity.
On October 16, 2011, at around 3 p.m., soldier Alexander Bargasa fetched Cindy from her home to attend the anniversary gathering of the 16th Infantry Battalion at the military camp in sitio Galaxy, Pinugay village, Baras, Rizal. She was accompanied by a cousin and a neighbor. She came home at around 7 p.m. and since then, Cindy’s relatives noticed changes in her behavior.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Cindy’s cousin, Marissa, related: “Our grandmother said she did not eat that night. The next morning, she brought all the kitchen utensils to the deep well and washed them again and again. By Wednesday, she did not sleep and was only talking to herself,” Marissa said. When the relatives decided to bring Cindy to the traditional healer, they were advised to take the teenager to the doctor. “The healer said Cindy is in a state of shock and something wrong was done to her,” Marissa said.
Marissa accompanied Cindy to the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). There, Cindy confessed that soldiers touched her private parts and lay on top of her. She could not remember what happened next. Her companions would later reveal that after they ate cake, they felt dizzy and fell asleep. The medico-legal report on Cindy revealed lacerations in her vagina.
Cindy’s case is not isolated. For this year alone, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) documented several human rights violations committed by state security forces against children: two cases of rape and sexual assault, five cases of killings, 17 cases of frustrated killings. The group also documented ten incidents of attacks on schools and eight cases of branding children as child soldiers of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
In a press conference, March 17, Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC executive director said the Aquino administration’s Oplan Bayanihan “continues to wreak havoc in rural communities and even children are not spared from the atrocities.”
Speaking at the press conference, Lourdes Mancera, demanded justice for her two sons, aged seven and ten, and her husband Benjamin who were killed when soldiers of the 49th Infantry Battalion indiscriminately fired at their house in purok 6, sitio Mapatong, barangay Malaya, Labo, Camarines Norte on Feb. 25.
Lourdes learned about the incident a day after when she came home from Manila. She had been working as a maid for three years to augment the family’s meager income. “I was told that the three met an accident and so, I hurriedly went home the next day. It was only when I arrived that I came to know what happened,” Lourdes said in Filipino in an interview with Bulatlat.com. “I had been saving for the christening of my two boys. They had grown up but they had not been baptized yet. I never expected that this would happen.”
Lourdes said that during the burial of her husband and her two sons, soldiers on board two Army trucks came. The commanding officer, Lourdes said, offered her P20,000 ($487) and scholarship for her 14-year-old daughter Ella (not her real name), the lone survivor and witness to the massacre.
“They told me the NPA guerrillas were the ones who fired first. I told them I do not believe them. I stand by the statement of my daughter that there was no crossfire. I told them they have no heart, no soul because if they have, they would not throw a grenade at our house,” Lourdes said.
“The statistics on human rights violations committed against children is alarming. This year alone, four children have been killed,” Ruiz said.
The group cited the case of Christian Roy Noceto, 15, who was killed on February 16 in Atingay village, Magdalena, Laguna while hunting for bats and frogs to sell. According to the factsheet prepared by the group, Noceto, along with Jaycee Perez, 31 and two boys aged 15 and 17, were hunting in the mountains when elements of the Special Action Unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based in Candelaria, Quezon and the 1st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army fired at them. Perez was also killed while the two boys were wounded.
Impact on children
Ruiz, a psychologist, said children who are victims of human rights violations suffer from emotional and psychological trauma.
“They feel anxiety, extreme fear. In many cases, children-victims would run at the mere sight of soldiers. These children also withdraw from society. Their routine is disrupted and in some instances, uprooted from their communities,” Ruiz said.
The effects could also be physiological, Ruiz said. “They would have fever, would not be able to sleep. Others have nightmares. Some feel unexplainable exhaustion or irritability,” she said.
The CRC also documented cases where soldiers occupied the barangay halls, day care centers, chapels and health centers in San Miguel village, Las Navas, Northern Samar; in G.M. Osias village, Gamay, Northern Samar and Liberty village, Ormoc City.
For Cindy, the impact was severe. She was diagnosed with psychosis, a mental illness and had been confined at a hospital. “In the first few months, she refused to take anything, not even food and medicines. She would often say ‘Mama, take me. They make me suffer so much,’” Marissa said. Cindy’s mother passed away eight years ago. Her father, Marissa said, has left Cindy and her six siblings long ago to the care of their grandmother.
It was only in January this year that Cindy began to recover. On Feb. 27, she was discharged from the hospital but is still on medication. “Sometimes, she would suddenly strip. When she comes back to her senses, she would be surprised to see herself naked,” Marissa said.
As for Ella, Lourdes said, the girl was so frightened after the shooting. “She was crying. She told me she was trying to wake up her father but to no avail. She thought she would be shot next so she embraced tight her Papa tightly,” Lourdes said.
Lourdes said she wants those responsible to be imprisoned.
Marissa also cries out for justice. “They [soldiers] have destroyed Cindy’s future,” Marissa said.
Rape charges have been filed against Barsaga and two other soldiers, Rocky Domingo and Ronnie Castro. The local court in Morong, Rizal has yet to issue a resolution on the case.
“We want them in jail so that they would not be emulated. If they would be left unpunished, there would be more victims,” Marissa said.
In a picket rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the AFP, March 19, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns spokeswoman Melissa San Miguel said: “Behind the cosmetics of Oplan Bayanihan, this administration could never hide that children become victims of human rights violations.”