Sunday, December 16, 2007


* wrote this special report not knowing it would become yesterday's banner story/ headline at the Manila Times...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Black, Bitter Christmas for 6M Poor Pinoy kids
11.5 million Filipino children are poorest of the poor

THE government says some 11.5 million of the almost 33 million Filipino children live below the poverty line. They are the poorest of the poor. Marianet Amper, tormented by her family’s extreme poverty, killed herself last November.

Most likely, 6 million of the 11.5 million poor children are having a black and bitter Christmas season, like Marianet. They don’t have the bright Christmas enjoyed by the children of well-off and rich families.

They never hear the soft voice of hope and empowerment that one is supposed to hear from the story of the birth of the Christ Child. All they hear are the sounds of hunger, conflict and despair.

The other 5.5 very poor children are probably adequately lifted from desperation by the poverty alleviation programs of the government, the churches and the private organizations.

Street infant

Hope Andres (not her real name) has never believed in Santa Claus. She makes a living by begging from commuters inside passenger jeepneys with her infant daughter. She is only 14 years old. When asked who the father of her baby is, she declines to answer. But she told this reporter that if she would ever ask for a gift, she would want her baby to be finally out of the streets.

In a nation that values the youth as an invaluable asset, current data show that unlike any other sector of the population, Filipino children continue to suffer from hunger, abuse and oppression like never before.

The 2007 data published by the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that Filipino children still account for the largest number of the poor population.

Around 11.5 million of the almost 33 million Filipino children live below the poverty line. Hope is one of them. She is one of the country’s estimated 1.5 million street children.

Figures from the latest NSO Family Income and Expenditure Survey also present a more vivid profile. Around 20 percent have no access to safe drinking water, almost a third live in homes that have no electricity, and around 40 percent of Filipino households with children aged 13 to 16, are not able to send them to school.

As the entire country celebrates Christmas, it is but fitting to listen to the voices of some of them, for a deeper understanding of this season’s significance.

“I wish I can be free…”

This may seem to be a complicated Christmas wish for a 13-year-old but such is the ultimate yearning of Benjie Garcia, (not his real name) a ward of the Molave Youth Home in Quezon City.

Benjie is second in a brood of six children, and currently under the safekeeping of the Quezon City Social Services Department’s “Task Force Diversion” after having been caught shoplifting at a grocery store.

In between sobs, Benjie recalls how he was manhandled by the barangay tanod who caught him. “He hit me and my friend several times. . . He also put handcuffs on us and I knew that he was not allowed to do that.”

Benjie said he stopped going to school when he was in third grade and could hardly read or write. He only sees his parents during weekends. His mother works as a “stay-in” canteen worker and his dad, a stonemason, lives within a construction site to cut daily transportation expenses.

The rest of his siblings are taken care of by his eldest brother, 17, also an out of school youth.

Benjie still believes, however, that once he gets out, his family would once again, spend Christmas together. “Sana makalaya na po ako para makapiling ko na pamilya ko, puro mabait po silang lahat, ako lang po ang naging gago. [I wish to be set free so I could be with my family. They have all been very good to me and I am the only one who ended up bad.]”

“I’d like to go back to school…”

“My wish is to go back to school again.” This was uttered by Abby Solis, [not her real name], 13, another ward of Molave Youth Home in Quezon City. Abby is facing charges of Qualified Theft after allegedly stealing her employer’s clothes.

Last June, Abby traveled all alone from Negros Occidental to Manila to be with her mother who worked as a househelper here. After being with her for a short while, her mother decided to go home to the province and Abby took her place.

If given the chance to speak to Santa Claus, Abby said she would ask him for a cell phone. “My family does not yet know that I am here [in Molave]. I would like to hear my parents’ voice so much.” She said tearfully.

Case studies consistently show that poverty is the root cause of “survival offending” among Children-in-Conflict-with-the-Law or CICL. Such is the process of committing a violation or offense while in the process of carrying out one’s livelihood or in the act of survival. Poverty is one of the factors invariably linked to children’s vulnerability to commit various crimes.

“I’m so exhausted. . .”

Hector is 16 and works as an all-around errand boy in a sing-along-bar in Santiago City, Isabela. He works almost 20 hours a day for a P50 daily wage.

“I do not get to keep my salary because my employer gives it to my parents every Friday.” His parents travel once a week from nearby town Alicia to get his meager salary. He is the sole breadwinner for a family of 9, being second in a brood of 7 children.

His voice breaking, he tells this reporter that he could hardly find the strength to go on. “I sleep very late because the bar closes at around 2 a.m. I get back to work very early the following morning.”

When asked what he would wish for Christmas, he said he wishes for another job that wasn’t as hard.

Present statistics show that more than three and a half million Filipino children from all over the country, aged 5 to 17 work under often-grueling conditions, in spite of legislation outlawing child labor.

Statistics from the NSCB also show that as of 2002, around 30 percent of the Philippines 84.5 million population earn only around P38 a day. Fifteen percent of this figure are composed of families whose children work for a living.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Anatomy of plagiarized work

Recently, I was browsing through some websites and blogs linked to this blog, (why or how they registered a link with my blog--my low-tech brain would rather not ask) when I came across this website purportedly owned by a veteran media personality. Intrigued why and how come, my blog was linked to hers-- I sneaked a peak. Lo and behold, I saw some very familiar phrases, and never not even once, did she mention my blog!

I would rather not mention the name here, because it just so happens I was born with a soft heart for the elderly. But the point I'm driving at here is that--plagiarism is a reality, so beware, and make all the necessary steps to protect your work(i.e. apply for copyright), as soon as you get the chance.

To illustrate, here’s an excerpt from a post I made last May ’07 pertaining to poor healthcare conditions:

“There are thousands, perhaps even millions of Filipinos in the country trapped in similarly hopeless situations.”

Here’s what she wrote re: Mariannet Amper:

“There must be hundreds, even thousands, of young girls and boys...all over the country who are trapped in similar hopeless situations.”

* note that the idea is different, but the sentence construction is almost the same.

Here’s what I wrote on the death of Mariannet Amper:

“Apparently…this girl was...sensitive and introspective that she was able to chronicle her family's suffering in a diary.”

And here’s what she wrote:

“Mariannet...has an introspective frame of mind and...unusual sensitive personality.”

Lastly I wrote:

”Mariannet, innocent and young as she was, put a human face to another disquieting news item today, where...11 million Filipinos live on less than a dollar a day.”

Her version:

“Mariannet’s suicide put a human the never-ending issues of poverty, where allegedly 11 million Filipinos consider themselves hungry.”

Now, doesn’t something like this ruin your day (and your appetite for blogging!)?!!!