By Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan
June 15, 2016
QUEZON CITY — A recently established youth organization expressed “deep concern” on the ongoing police operations in several cities in Metro Manila. They claim that Oplan Rody which enforces anti-vice, decency and curfew decrees “shows utter disregard to realities” of an evolving and booming metropolis and will “harken back to the darker days of our history”.
The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan or SPARK argued that Oplan Rody as well as the various city council resolutions has failed to account major societal changes in the country today making hundreds of thousands of enrolled, working and even out-of-school youth automatic prey to the absolutist and unrealistic decrees.
The young activists are calling for the immediate end of Oplan Rody until city councils modify their resolutions and take into consideration the realities of present-day conditions, lay down the mechanisms that will safeguard the youth from human rights abuses possibly by law enforcement units and more importantly address the societal roots of petty crime.
K-12 and the education crisis
“With the dismal preparation and implementation of the K-12 program and only a handful of schools “K-12 ready” because of the shortage of classrooms exacerbated by the insufficient budget, the K-12 ready schools are congested and will require the employment of shifts reaching up to 9pm to accommodate all enrollees,” said Joanne Lim, leader of SPARK in the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus.
She further explained that, “Chances of these students going beyond the curfew will also be amplified with the upcoming monsoon rains and expected heavy flooding, add the lamentable state of the public transportation system and road networks which will all contribute to the longer travel time from school”.
The activists also raised the issue of working students, who are more likely to be scheduled to work on graveyard shifts so as not to collide with the class schedules.
“Even the Labor department’s Special Program of Employment for Students (SPES), mandated under Republic Act No. 9547 allows students as young as fifteen to be employed so that the deserving may continue studying. This again is contrary to the unrealistic curfew hours employed by various city councils,” Lim pointed out.
More space for human rights violations
The group is wary that even the “seemingly harmless” sudden checks of identification cards of youngsters are “hauntingly similar to the Martial Law days wherein police have the prerogative to demand details from people”.
Lim insisted that these police operations should be supervised and implemented by professionals such as social workers and officers from the PNP Women and Children Protection Center since it concerns minors.
She fears that, “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”.
“Operations against petty crimes, aside from having the poor most susceptible, also fail to address the roots of these social ills and will only lead to a growing cycle of poverty and crime. Rather than solving the problem of criminality from its source by 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,” Lim expounded.
SPARK likewise called on all freedom loving citizens specially the media and human rights institutions to be extra 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”.