CEBU: The little girl and her friend were sleeping on the pavement along the street in Fuente district, Cebu, in front of a 7/11 that Easter Sunday night April 5, 2015. They had been begging for food in a city of growing wealth and prosperity. But street children see none of it, they are the children of the garbage, throwaway children that live begging or scavenging on the streets or in the garbage dump.
That sacred Sunday night when Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Chastity Mirabilis, a 11 year old street child and her friend,11 year old (call her) Miriam, were starting their passion and “crucifixion.”
As Miriam later described it, a policeman, as yet unnamed from Station 2 Fuente Osmena under the command of Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu, came up to the sleeping children kicked Chastity in the face and dragged her and Miriam to a police van. It is likely he was not alone.
There was no justification for this whatsoever and the children were brought to the Fuente police station and allegedly beaten up in the presence of several other policemen. Chastity was, according to the testimony of Miriam, tortured with electricity as reported by the city social workers after interviewing Miriam.
The children were so battered that they could hardly walk. The next day they were allegedly kicked out of the police station but Chastity could not stand up and walk and Miriam carried her on her back. No medical help was given. The question is were they sexually abused. Investigators have released a report or evidence to rule it out.
Miriam carried Chastity to the hovel where Chastity’s handicapped mother was. Later that day Chastity Mirabilis died from her injuries. The next day April 6, three more children were picked up, brought to the same police station under the watch of Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu and were allegedly subjected to verbal and psychological abuse. The police shaved off their hair. The female officer on duty did nothing to help the children. Later she called it necessary for the hygiene and grooming of the children.
This is a gross humiliation and criminalization of children and psychological abuse. The police should be fired for gross ignorance of the law and rights of the child and charged with violation of RA 7610, the child protection law. The three children were detained in a prison cell with male adult prisoners. They were not fed proper food. It is not known if they were victims of sexual abuse in the police station or if the prisoners paid the police for sex as sometime happens.
The criminalization of street children is a ploy to de-humanize them and justify harsh inhuman treatment. A national broad sheet editorial (not The Manila Times) recently commented on street children and supported a bill in congress to help them into dignified shelters and care centers, however at the same time it branded them as criminals. This conditions the minds of the public to treat them as a danger to society and as worthless beings and makes the children enemies of society who deserve punishment.
What happened in Cebu is not an isolated incident. It happens frequently and children are shot and stabbed to death as I have earlier reported. It is barbaric and outrageous. There is no public outcry in Cebu over this horrific crime. Silence is a form of consent and the silence brings shame on all Cebuano people. They should stand up and take a stand for children’s rights.
NBI 7 assistant director Augusto Isidero admitted that the child Miriam was able to identify the policemen from photographs who beat them and physically abused them. He told me over the phone that charges of murder and child abuse will be filed against the policemen. These heartless cruel police bring disgrace to the PNP and must be held accountable.
When the death of Chastity became big news, allegedly Chief Inspector Tiu immediately took a flight to the United States. He must have a green card, or multiple reentry visa. Getting a tourist visa to the United States is a long procedure. It seems he fled the scene of a crime in his own police station.
Will justice ever be done? Will the state really prosecute police for this crime of alleged murder and child abuse? They will likely favor the cruel, corrupt police over what they have until now considered a worthless street child. They are considered less than human, so worthless they allow them to sleep on the streets and scavenge in the garbage dumps. They allow it because they see the children as worthless garbage.
For the authorities Chastity and countless more are worthless street children. If not so, why then are they not housed in clean homes with good food and education as the children of the nation with equal right, under the constitution should be. The politicians who create such inequality and poverty are equally guilty of causing the suffering of the children.
The conscience of the nation ought to be awakened to these terrible unchanging conditions bringing suffering to the poor, the children and disgrace to the Philippines worldwide. Diplomats cringe in shame when foreign government officials raise the issue. Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle just smiles when challenged about it as he did on BBC Hardtalk..
They are the children of God, declared by Jesus of Nazareth as the most important in the Kingdom. Accept them and we accept Jesus. That’s our Faith. But in the Catholic Philippines the Church as institution has also failed the children. They languish abused in prisons and there is no Catholic social action to save them.
The child Jesus is revered in Cebu, the worship and procession of a statue is a passion here but apparently there is little or no respect for the living children.