THE children are our future, goes a line from the song, “The Greatest Love of All”.
In this month of January when many places in the country celebrate the feast day of the Santo Niño, we are reminded of the life of Jesus Christ as an innocent child to make us reflect that we were once children.
The Tondo fiesta, Cebu’s Sinulog, Iloilo’s Dinagyang, and Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan are all held in honor of the Sto. Niño (Infant Jesus). These are among the biggest and most colorful annual festivals showcasing the religious and cultural heritage of the Philippines.
But let’s not be content with just looking and admiring the Santo Niño in various colorful costumes and listening to the beat of the parade songs.
With chants and cheers of “Hala, bira!” during the Ati-Atihan parade, or “Pit Señor” during Sinulog and Dinagyang, let us also reflect on the lyrics of the song “Greatest Love of All,” one of the most favorite.
It says: “Teach them (children) well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
The words are quite simple, yet tough to do.
And in this age of “Oplan Tokhang,” when many children are left fatherless, don’t you wonder what future awaits them?
The statistics on the Duterte administration’s war on drugs has been disturbing. Since President Duterte took office on June 30 until mid-December last year, more than 6,000 dead were recorded, most of them by summary execution. The Philippine National Police (PNP) labels those as “deaths under investigation” because the perpetrators are unknown.
That’s an average of 1,015 people killed every month. According to police data, 2,102 were killed in police operations, while 3,993 were killed by unknown suspects.
Put yourself in the shoes of those summarily executed on mere suspicion of being a drug user or pusher, or by mistaken identity, how would you feel? If you have a young nephew or niece whose father was felled by bullets without having been given a chance to prove wrong the accusations against him, what future holds for the child? How should the child react to such a traumatic experience?
The PNP itself admits that most of those killed in the government’s war on drugs were poor. Just because they could not afford the rich man’s cocaine, the 6,000-plus victims of the government’s Oplan Tokhang did not deserve a second chance in life.
The authorities often claim that suspected drug dependents were killed because they fought back. None of the 6,000-plus dead had a chance like Peter Lim to shake hands with the President, go home, and pack his bags to disappear.
How many of the 6,000-plus dead were breadwinners who left behind families without fathers, husbands, or brothers? How many children or siblings were forced to stop schooling because the family breadwinner was killed under the government’s “Oplan Tokhang?”
Duterte’s repeated assurances to the public that his war on drugs was not a matter of social class, the stories we hear or watch in the news almost every day belie his claim.
The criticisms that only the poor and powerless fell victim to the fight against illegal drugs appear to have basis, especially when someone the President himself identified as a drug lord in the Visayas was given a chance to see him and managed to leave the country a few days later, and when operators and financiers of huge shabu laboratories raided by law enforcers are nowhere in sight.
Stories about poor men found wrapped in cardboard and packing tape or slumped on alleys while rich men involved in drugs just disappear were not rare. These stories disprove the claim that the war on drugs exempts no one.
What lessons do we teach children when people are killed without observing the due process? How should we expect children to behave after seeing their father or uncle or neighbor killed before their eyes, or found bathing in blood or wrapped in cartons?
What beauty do the killings show them? What sense of pride can they get from those?
These are the children of our future. They should see good leadership examples. They should learn to grow up to be responsible citizens.
The government should not leave the orphaned children behind. It should have programs that will cater not only to their everyday needs but also to their psychological well-being.
It is not enough that the government kills suspected drug pushers and users who fight it out, and builds multi-million peso drug rehabilitation centers for the rest of those who surrendered.
It has to take good care of the children and mold them into responsible future leaders. They should not grow up with the thought that killing another will solve problems.