DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 May) – As militant protesters from various parts of the region staged a rally during Labor Day here, they brought their children to a nearby tent where they could play with toys under the watchful eyes of social workers and, more importantly, for their safety.
Maria Luisa Bermudo, head of the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO), said 44 children aged 9 months to 17 years old were brought by their protesting parents to the “child-friendly space” only a few meters away from where the rally was along Roxas Avenue.
The children – who came from Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Davao City – stayed there from morning until the rally ended around 5 p.m., Bermudo said.
She said the they want to ensure the children are kept from harm’s way, this being part of the city government’s child protection policy, while their parents were holding their rally to express their grievances to the government.
“While it is right for the parents to express their opinion, their thoughts, and their objectives, first and foremost we want to ensure the safety and protection of the children. It’s also their right to be kept safe,” Bermudo added.
While at the tent, the children were treated to story-telling sessions and served lunch and snacks, she noted.
“Voluntarily, they brought their children here. They saw that we did not intervene in the rally. Our primary concern was to make sure the children are attended to and are given the time to play because that’s what the children want,” she added.
Around 1,000 members of different militant groups such as the Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, League of Filipino Students, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), Musahamat Workers Labor Union in Pantukan in Comspostela Valley and Kilusan ng Manggagawa ng Coca-Cola (KIMACO) marched starting 2 p.m. from Magsaysay Park going to Roxas Avenue where they torched at 5 p.m. an effigy portraying President Rodrigo Duterte, complete with his big motorcycle and sunglasses.
The city was a six-time winner of the Presidential Award for Child-Friendly Municipalities and Cities (PACFMC), winning the awards in 1998, 1999, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
A briefer from the City Information Office (CIO) said that one of the programs established by the city government was the Kean Gabriel Hotline, a brainchild of Mayor Sara Duterte, which receives reports on child abuse.
It added that the city government has also put up the Quick Response Team for Children’s Concern (QRTCC), designed to rescue, investigate and document cases of sexual abuse, exploitation, and atrocities committed against children; Crisis Intervention Center (CIC) Balay Dangupan, a shelter care institution for physically abused children; and Davao City Children’s Village or Bahay Pag-asa, which continues to serve as a temporary shelter for Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL), whose cases had been filed in court and awaiting disposition.
The briefer said the city also maintains the Paginhawaan Drop-In Center for street children who need temporary shelter and protection and the Lingap Center for Mentally-Challenged Children and continues to provide day care services for the children of city employees under five years of age at the Child Minding Center. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)