ALMOST 1/3 of the Philippine population is composed of the youth, according to the National Census. At the same time, statistics from the Philippine National Police indicate that almost six million children and youth are at risk, including those who are in conflict with the law.
Cases involving children used by syndicates in akyat bahay, bukas kotse, drug dealing, human trafficking, and prostitution as sex slaves are on the rise. Being minors, however, these children are exempted from penalties like life imprisonment even when found guilty of committing major crimes and offenses. Under Republic Act 9344, 15 years old is the start of criminal responsibility.
Proposals were submitted to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to nine or 10 years old. While some believe that a law should be passed to control this privilege, I believe we must think first of the root causes before solving the problem. A fruit doesn’t grow without a root.
Minors are vulnerable to influences, including the bad ones. Parents and society as a whole – church, school, media – carry the responsibility of rearing these children into a God-fearing and law-abiding citizens. There is a pressing need to protect these children from those who take advantage of their innocence. Syndicates using children in scams are now gaining more attention as a public issue.
Elyzaldy Karim Javar, a high school guidance counselor assigned to freshmen (with ages ranging from 11-14), said the minors’ environment greatly affects the way they see and the way they want themselves to be. This environment chiefly pertains to their family and their peers.
“This is the stage when they prefer other people’s company than their family and these minors will fight to have time with these people,” he points out.
Meanwhile, Sister Lezelda Laurente, a Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) nun, believes that the education of the youth is the family and the society’s obligation.
“Children will not be used by syndicates if they are reared well by their parents and if the society helps in guiding these kids. Some of them were just forced to join the syndicates because of poverty or parental negligence,” she said.
Social worker Florelyn Calapio from the Department of Social Welfare and Development stressed that the family remains the “basic unit of society” and parents have a major role in the rearing of their children.
“Parents ang pinakaresponsible sa bata dahil sila ‘yung magtre-train ng values at character building. ‘Yung tinutukoy kong family ay ‘yung kinagisnan ng bata na taong nag-aalaga sa kaniya,” she said.
While a child is truly one of the most important and meaningful joys in life, every child deserves a joyful childhood under the parents’ care.–Raqueza Lalangan, UPB
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“ANG kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.”
Who has not heard of this quote from our national hero Jose Rizal?
I was reminded of this saying when I covered the SK Night of Lingayen last January 2. I heard many good words said about the youth. Very impressive.
However, on my way out of the auditorium, a contradictory scene struck me. Some youths were drinking liquor, smoking, and just chatting while there was someone speaking on the stage. They are young leaders who are supposed to be the good examples. They are the ones expected to or envisioned to lead the community years from now.
I am not saying that drinking, smoking, and chatting are entirely bad things. I think these are “bad” when people do these or when they should be doing something more productive or simply being courteous (like listening to the speaker).
With such behavior, how can we, the youth, be proud of ourselves? Moreover, how can the rest of the society be proud of us?
I just hope that what I had observed that night is not the regular occurrence.
A new year has set in, another opportunity for us to do good, or better. We are supposed to live up to what is expected from us. More importantly, we are supposed to live up to our own dreams. Let us be the hope of our land. Let us be the generation that tops other generations. Aja Generation Y!–Johanne Macob,UPB