Since when did helping children become a crime?
By BRELL LACERNA
MANILA – A group of child rights advocates belied police claims that they were the ones who caused fear to students and parents as they distributed free alcohol and face masks on Monday, where they were violently dispersed just outside the President Corazon C. Aquino Elementary School (PCAES) in Barangay Batasan Hills, Quezon City.
“It was a peaceful gathering that aimed to help, not cause chaos or bring fear to children and their parents. We positioned the booth at the side of the school and it was clear that parents and school children were approaching our booth on their own to get fruits, face masks, and alcohol,” said Salinlahi in a statement.
In a video that has gone viral, police officers were seen halting the relief distribution, in front of parents and their schoolchildren.
Apart from the violent dispersal, the police also confiscated their relief kits. They also tried to arrest Tiben Wahing and Kim Samiana, members of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns.
In a statement, the Quezon City police claimed that the child rights advocates were the ones who “caused fear to children and parents in entering the school premises” when they did not remove their protest placards.
Salinlahi, on the other hand, said school children have the right to know the issues affecting them.
“Children are intelligent, creative, and have a capacity to understand,” said the child rights group.
Meanwhile, women’s group Gabriela said it was the police that traumatized the parents and school children when the booth set up by Salinlahi were violently dispersed.
“The PNP yet again proved that they are the topmost human rights violator in the country as evidenced by how they disrupted a peaceful activity aiming to distribute hygiene kits and food packs to children,” Gabriela secretary general Clarice Palce said.
This, however, is not the first time that police officers prevented distribution of aid and relief goods, especially during the pandemic.
Last May 1, 2020, ten relief workers were arrested in Marikina City while on their way to provide warm meals to poor communities there. The case against them was later dismissed for “lack of probable cause and insufficiency of evidence.”
Read via our mirror site: Prosecutor junks charges vs 10 Marikina relief volunteers
“There is nothing wrong with demanding the Department of Education and the national government to come up with concrete programs and interventions for a safe return to school for both school children and parents in the middle of a pandemic. It is also not wrong to provide help to children in the face of crisis. It is not a crime to help,” Salinlahi said.