A contest in stupidity

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The Taguig Police will free Manuel Cuntapay if his three children do not file a case against him. And the children won’t because, they tell the police who are temporarily taking care of them, they don’t want to see their father in jail.

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A few days ago the man whipped the children—aged 8, 11, and 12—with a belt after he came home drunk and found no food for him to eat. After a while, perhaps realizing he was not inflicting enough harm, he took a bolo and hit the hapless children with it.

We will not go so far as to say that he hacked the children, but they did suffer severe wounds in their heads and arms. On that basis alone the police can and should file an anti-child abuse case. They won’t because, they tell the media, the children are not filing a complaint.

Oh, but protecting children is a job for DSWD. It is right down its ally, or so we thought. However, Filomena Sabelo, a social worker assigned to DSWD’s Children and Women’s Desk in Old Lower Bicutan, couldn’t do anything about it either “because the kids refuse to issue a statement against their father.”

Clearly the police do not have a monopoly over stupidity.

The right to file case against anybody who abuses children is not confined to the victims, parents, guardians, or close relatives. The law authorizes DSWD officer or social worker, the police, or even the barangay chairman to lodge a complaint before the court.

Moreover, and this is the most important provision, DSWD should take the child or children subjected to cruel treatment, exploitation, or neglect under its care and custody, and the agency “shall be free from any administrative, civil, or criminal liability . . . ” for doing so.

Apparently the mother has already been told so she is coming home from Malaysia, where she has been working to support her three children and a drunk for a husband. Meanwhile, the authorities are freeing the man and giving the children back to him instead of locking him up for good.

Other countries are adopting innovative techniques to help children in distress. In Spain, for instance, a poster is being plastered in all key cities. The poster has a photo of a child, but only children can see the message it contains, along with a telephone number they can call if they are victims of abuse. Adults can’t.

According to Anar Foundation, a charity organization, the message and the number “can only be fully seen when looked at from a child’s point of view due to a lenticular printing technique more often seen in novelty postcards.”

The civilized world is doing everything to find children who may be suffering abuse and help them. Here, we have a clear case of child abuse staring us right in the face, and the authorities refuse to do something about it.

It is ironic that children suffer most at home, the place where they have all the right to feel safe and secure. And it is the parents who they look up to for protection that inflict harm on them. That is why society must intervene.

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