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A Taste of the Iron Fist

A press statement by the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK)
June 14, 2016

News have been pouring in from mainstream media of a substantial number of minors being captured due to the curfew of 9pm to 4am imposed in municipalities such as Las Pinas, Manila, Quezon City, Mandaluyong and Caloocan. Local ordinances for the imposition of curfew have already been in place years before -- in Manila by 2002 and in Quezon City by 2014.

However, with the expected rise to power of President-elect Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte, the Philippine National Police is now enforcing these operations under the name Oplan “Rid the Streets of Drinkers and Youth” or Oplan Rody. The coverage of mainstream media on the incidents, however, fail to tackle or promote discussion regarding the impacts of these ordinances on the youth, especially for those taking the night shifts for school, working students and the poor.

K-12 and the education crisis

The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 which resulted in the implementation of the K-12 Basic Education Program had aimed to improve the quality of education for Filipinos across the country. However, the dismal implementation lead to only a handful of schools ready for K-12 and thus exacerbated and continued the shortage of classrooms, lack of textbooks and insufficient budget to absorb the senior high enrollees.

With most schools proving to have inadequate facilities, the K-12 schools are congested and thus require the employment of shifts reaching up to night-time to accommodate them. Schools such as the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Universidad de Manila have their classes extending up to 9pm. The lack of K-12 ready schools are also an added burden to students pursuing senior high school as schools in their area cannot operate for K-12 yet.

Students as young as 17 also participate in Department of Labor and Employment’s Special Program of Employment for Students (SPES) to be able to continue with their education. The working hours under this program most probably span the late hours of the day to match their school schedule.

Chances of these students going beyond the curfew are also amplified with the upcoming monsoon rains and heavy flooding expected from the lamentable state of the public transportation system and road networks which add to the travel time required for their trips home.

More space for human rights violations

Minors are required to present papers which certify that they are students dismissed from their classes in the evening or got off from work through presenting copies of their schedules. Although seemingly harmless since it just merits a check on certain documents, this hauntingly harks back to the Martial Law days wherein police have the prerogative to demand details from citizens. While those who violate the ordinances are only supposed to receive warning and lectures, certain police stations have been found to be inconsistent in their procedures with some having push-ups as punishment.

It should also be noted that these operations should be supervised by professionals such as social workers and police officers from the PNP Women and Children Protection Center since it concerns minors. If the implementation of these ordinances are not properly regulated, too much power may be given to the police force and this can be taken advantage of if put in the wrong hands.

Poor more prone to oppression in war on crime

Unemployment among the uneducated youth has been found to lead to a propensity for committing criminal offenses such as theft and drug-related offenses. Property crimes are largely correlated to poverty as these are found to be the remaining avenues for the people to get resources from required to continue with their lives especially with the high cost of living due to the high prices of basic commodities and insufficiency of basic social services. Operations against petty crimes, aside from having the poor most susceptible, also fail to address the roots of these social ills and thus lead to a growing cycle of poverty and crime.

Thus SPARK-Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan expresses its deep concern regarding the operations performed by the police force which show utter disregard to realities faced by each and every ordinary Filipino. Rather than solving the problem of criminality by providing young Filipinos with an education that will provide them with a better future, the steps taken only further handicap their chances at a better life.

Rather than solving the problem of criminality by cultivating a police force that truly serves and protects, the steps taken only harken back to the darker days of our history. Rather than solving the problem of criminality from its source through taking steps to alleviate poverty, the steps taken are those which hold the poor most vulnerable and leave the most responsible and those in power free from repercussion.

These ordinances may only apply to these particular cities now, but we as citizens should always be vigilant, especially as it appears that a police-state is what awaits the country under the administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who has risen to power on a platform of anti-criminality.




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