When the Philippine government enforced its campaign against illegal drugs in 2016, children have been killed, charged with drug-related cases and were included among the massive number of individuals who surrendered to local authorities, voluntarily or were asked to do so after being named part of the drug personality list. The growing number of incarcerated individuals also left children behind and orphaned. It shows that children are not spared from the violence brought by the aggressive operations of the campaign across the nation and if left unaddressed, shall continue to put children’s rights at risk.
Carlo, 18, is a child in conflict with the law (CICL) charged with a drug-related case.
“I felt sad when I learned about the 122 children deaths in the anti-illegal drugs campaign because these children were not given a chance to live, be with their loved ones and were robbed of their future,” Carlo shared.
He is staying in Bahay Pag-asa (temporary shelter) for eight months now and just celebrated his 18th birthday in the temporary shelter this month.
“Spiritual development and playing basketball are my favorite activities in the temporary shelter. It helped me to understand myself and motivated me not to revert in wrongful doings,” Carlo said.
According to Carlo, the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine restrictions affected their court hearings and delayed the scheduled release of some CICL. His court hearings were on hold for four months since the announcement of lockdown in March, until online court hearings started in May.
In April, Save the Children Philippines provided hygiene essentials to their rehabilitation center to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19. Children’s consultation and learning sessions on children’s rights with CICL were also facilitated in November and December.
“It is very important for children and youth like me to learn about our rights, be heard and consulted,” Carlo shared.
During the consultation and learning sessions, Carlo, along with other CICL participants, have shared their first impression of police officers as “kalaban” (the enemy). They shared that there were police officers who have been abusive to children, including beating up children and adding trump-up drug charges or threatening children that they will be detained with adults.
Carlo also experienced grave child rights violation and it’s a reality to many CICL, but one particular police officer had been kind to him and even provided him food which inspired him to dream of becoming a good policeman someday.
He is currently enrolled in an online class under Alternative Learning System. “Through education, I can have a better future and be able to help my family once I get a job,” Carlo said.
His family used to visit him every day, but because of the health risk from COVID-19, he asked them not to frequently visit him and assured them that he is being well taken care of by the house parent in the temporary shelter. He is worried on how his family is doing during this pandemic, especially if they have enough money to buy food and other basic needs.
Lastly, he dreams of a community in which everyone’s rights are fulfilled and are treated equally, regardless if they are poor. “There should be a fair treatment to everyone, because we are all human,” Carlo added.
Protecting Children in the Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign (ProAct) is a project of Save the Children Philippines that aims to build stronger child protection systems, protect children from the adverse impacts of the anti-illegal drugs campaign, and promote nonviolence and respect for human rights at the national and local level.
ProAct provided CICLs in temporary shelter with computer tablets they can use for their online court hearings, online classes, and even extra-curricular activities like dance exercises or games.