TRIBUTE: Daghang salamat Bernie, magpadayon mi

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 July) — He was buried today in gloomy weather. Saturday’s heavy downpour and overcast skies could easily have been interpreted as manifestations of heaven’s grief. 

But the man who was buried this morning would have been more concerned about children and their families in bad weather. 

He would have worried about mga bata and kabataan and their pamilya needing shelter; those under threat from flooding; and those who would be denied their day’s sustenance because the rains prevented them from working.

His work was an assertion that children have rights and that children’s rights are human rights. As such, children cannot be denied these rights; and society cannot be arbitrary about what rights to prioritize, more so because these rights make up a coherent whole. 

He reminded us that children and youth getting into conflict with the law are less about poor discipline and more about society’s failings. 

Courtesy of Child Rights Network

The situation of our children and youth are but products of what we have allowed our society to become over time: pronounced socio-economic inequities; government leaders who manipulate rather than serve people’s will; political divisions fueled by untruths; and intolerance that prevents authentic growth and connections. 

Instead of benefiting from the best of our hopes, many Filipino children and youth today suffer from the worst of our fears. 

Our fear of threats and disorder have made us susceptible to the lure of punitive blanket solutions. And so, instead of being rehabilitated and reformed, many of our young who engaged in criminal acts had been incarcerated or worse, summarily killed. To our shame, the foundations of our current sense of security include acts of violence against children and violations of their rights. 

We fear instability and mistake aspirations for change as malicious destabilization. Hence, we are quick to label youth expressions of their rights to association, free speech, and assembly as terroristic. Never mind that in doing so, we put their lives and liberty at risk. Never mind that in doing so, we abet the stunting of our people’s political maturity and the weakening of institutions.

We value continuity and fear disruption and thus think that the transfer of political positions from older to younger members of a family is a matter of course. But we discount the real nature and true costs and effects of political dynasties. With continuing poverty a reality in many areas where dynasties have reigned for generations, it can almost be said that dynasties are about securing the future of clan interests represented by a few children, to the detriment of the wellbeing of other and more children.

But Bernie Mondragon, whose person, work, and passing inspire these musings, would have wanted us to overcome the worst of our fears so we could provide the best of our hopes to our children and youth.

He was laid to rest today in gloomy weather. But his vision, passion, and energy will help sustain the work to respect, promote, protect, and fulfill children’s rights and all human rights.

Daghang salamat, Bernie. Magpadayon mi.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mags Z. Maglana is a Mindanawon who has worked in various capacities for peace, good governance, sustainable development, and the promotion of human rights. She is one of the convenors of Konsyensya Dabaw. She was the lone woman among three candidates who challenged the reelection bid of Representative Paolo Duterte in the first congressional district. Duterte won. Maglana first posted this on her social media account. MindaNews was granted permission to share this)