Justice for Chastity
Cebu City was awarded the 2014 Seal of Child-Friendly Local Governance by a national council for the welfare of children headed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
It’s not hard to see why. The city’s Task Force on Street Children was a trailblazer in the 1990s.
The Cebu city government built the Parian Drop-In Center, and then scraped together donations to build Operation Second Chance for juvenile offenders at a time when other cities and towns were cramming children with adults in police jails.
The title, however, becomes a farce with the death of 11-year-old Chastity Mirabiles.
She had a regular spot near Fuente Osmeña where she begged for alms with her mother. Strictly speaking, she’s not a street child or a homeless vagrant. Chastity had a home in B. Rodrizuez Street in barangay Sambag 2. She went to public school.
But a dirt-stained kid loitering on the street late at night, under the shadow of commercial buildings and Cebu city’s iconic Fuente Osmeña, doesn’t have a clear future.
Easter Sunday, a day of rebirth and new beginnings was her taste of hell.
Few people would believe the sob stories of professional beggars. We listen closely, however, to this tale of street injustice because professional social workers are the ones raising the alarm over the handling of street children by the Fuente Osmena police station.
There have been several complaints, not just about streetkids but prostituted women, and how they are treated when apprehended, then brought to Fuente station. But Chastity’s case is one that social workers cannot look away from.
Another child under their protection, has given an account of how 11-year-old Chastity was awakened at 2 a.m. on the sidewalk with a kick to her face.
A police roundup was in progress.
The “Libot Suroy” program of the Cebu police takes place off and on, when the presence of street urchins bothering passers by and tourists gets to be annoying. The minors are viewed with suspicion, more than pity, as potential snatchers.
From reliable sources, we learn that at least 15 children were rounded up in the wee hours of Easter Sunday at the Fuente station. The entire police force in Cebu was on “red alert” to protect crowds of church goers from being victimized by criminal elemnts.
We don’t know the details of how, why and where Chastity was detained. The child witness describes physical abuse, even electric shock – claims that need to be verified.
What is certain is that Chastity is dead.
The next morning, after her release, she went home, then returned to the Fuente area, near the 7-11 store , to beg again. At noon, she crossed the street to buy food and collapsed, still clutching the coins her mother gave her.
She was a victim of violence. The death certificate places the cause of her demise as “traumatic injuries to the trunk”. This is not “imagination” anymore, as Fuente station commander Chief Insp. Wildemar Tiu has tried to dismiss.It’s time for the police chief to face the music and explain his leadership and the conduct of his police team.
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