DAVAO CITY – Child’s rights advocates said the city needs to review its way of handling the rising problems of child trafficking. This as three children acting as runners for illegal drugs were caught by police last week.
Elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group staged separate buy-bust operations that caught a 10-year old girl and her 9-year old brother, another 10-year old boy selling a total of 50 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” worth P 150,000.
The children said they were originally from Marawi City in Lanao del Norte but are now living in Quezon Boulevard, a community which authorities tagged as a lair of criminal elements.
Child Alert Chairperson Bernie Mondragon noted that in a fast urbanized city like Davao City, poor families especially those migrating from provinces have been more vulnerable to trafficking into illegal drugs trade, prostitution and crime.
He said he is concerned how City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte constantly blames the Juvenile Justice Law for thwarting the local government and police’s effort to stop minors from involvement in crime.
“Trafficking of children is sad. But it would be ironic to put blame on the children. That’s misplaced anger coming from some sectors here in local government,” he said.
Mondragon said what is at fault is how Duterte and city officials are treating this news as a peace and order problem.
City Councilor Leah Librado, who heads the council’s committee on children’s concerns, proposed that schools and barangay officials have to be more involved in advocacy and monitoring on trafficking on children.
“There is a need to strengthen the campaign against trafficking and educate the community against it and all forms of abuse against children. Schools and barangays have vital roles in education campaign and advocacy,” she said.
Librado added that the cases of the three children have to be investigated further including the circumstances why the children were recruited. She reminded law enforcement agencies to pursue such cases with awareness on child rights.
“Law enforcement should also be accompanied by rights-based implementation of the law,” the councilor said.
CIDG operatives said they have one suspect on the source of the illegal drugs peddled by the kids. Edilberto Lenoardo, assistant director of Davao Region’s CIDG, said it is disturbing that he noticed the children were aware they were doing illegal things and that they had suspected they were dealing with police operatives in disguise.
Mondragon stressed it is high time that Davao City implements a provision of the amended Juvenile Justice Law to build a Bahay Pag-asa (House of Hope) to serve as center for the government’s juvenile rehabilitation program.
Under the said law, minors under 15 committing crimes especially heinous ones like drug dealing have to undergo a rehabilitation program. (davaotoday.com)