KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/05 June) — Internet café regulators here rounded up 25 elementary and high school students who were found playing computer games during regular school hours in the last three days.
Judith Amido, city public information officer, said Wednesday the 25 minors were held by members of the city’s Internet Operation Regulatory Board (IORB) after they were caught in the act of playing various computer-based games during random school hour inspections conducted by the board on internet cafes and computer shops in the city.
She said the inspections were part of the local government’s enforcement of a local ordinance that prohibits internet cafes from admitting pupils and students during school hours or specifically from 7:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We rounded them up and turned them over to the CSWDO (city social welfare and development office),” Amido said in a radio interview.
The apprehended minors underwent counseling at the CSWDO in compliance with the provisions of Republic Act 9344 or Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act and were later released to their parents and guardians, she said.
The official said most of those rounded up by the IORB were high school students enrolled in public schools in the city.
She said they also held several elementary level pupils, some of whom have not yet even enrolled for this school year.
“It’s important to address this problem early since there are already a lot of students who have become addicted to computer games. In fact, one of those just rounded up has dropped out of school twice and remained in first year high school in the last two years because of this problem,” she said.
Aside from rounding up the pupils and students, Amido said the IORB issued warnings and penalties to internet café owners or operators who admitted them.
Ordinance No. 5, series of 2006, which regulates the operations of internet shops in the city, sets various fines and sanctions to owners of internet cafés or shops that would be found admitting or serving minors, pupils and students during school hours.
The measure sets a fine of P2,000 and a five-day suspension of operation for the first offense and a fine of P40,000 and a two-week suspension of operation for the second offense.
For the third offense, the erring internet cafes or shops will face permanent closure while the business permit of their owners or operators will be revoked.
Earlier this year, the IORB penalized 10 of the 33 registered or licensed internet cafes and shops in the city for violation of the provisions of Ordinance No. 5.
One of the erring internet shops was recommended for closure by the board for repeated offenses.
Amido said the IORB, which launched anew the random inspections in line with the formal opening of classes last Monday, is presently working on expanding its operations to include internet shops located in the barangays.
She said Mayor Peter Miguel is initially planning to create additional task forces to assist the enforcement operations or activities of the IORB. (Allen V. Estabillo)