"Growing hopeless from a hopeful generation"
-A profile of Filipino Children
What most Filipino Children suffer nowadays?
Nearly half of the population of the Philippines (47% out of 77 million Filipinos) is below 19 years of age, and yet most of them, nearly 90% belonged to the marginalized sectors of the society, experiencing the repressive structure of the present ruling system such as a semifeudal and semicolonial structure.
They lived in appalling conditions of poverty and gross deprivation, these children, along with their families, had been suffering from malnutrition and prone to illness, as well as having limited or no access to basic social services such as education, health care and proper housing. In education, the overwhelming majority haven't finished grade school, do not go beyond grade 4; and long before they reach the age of 15 had to engage in hard labor in pursuit of supporting their parent's income as well as their survival.
These conditions somehow had been much tackled by politicians especially women legislators in regards to ensuring the welfare of the younger generation. The fact that these younger generation are known for its idealism, being passionate, adventurous, such conditions had made them helpless as they had to endure the repressive structures such as taking part in agricultural production, or in the cities as peddling, scavenging, even prostitution, made to work for long hours, at times extending beyond 12 hours, at subhuman wages.
But not only children of lower class backgrounds are vulnerable to repressive structures and human rights violations. Even those of lower middle class backgrounds had to work in the city, and somehow become susceptible to risks because of their condition. This issue are often veiled with the illusion that they are supporting their parents, if not "independence" as it's alibi. Call centers for instance, some of the workers are not yet 18, stopped college and had to work for their tuition and other expenses to be paid.
If not all for the sake of augmenting the inadequate incomes of their parents or just to make up their parents' lack of employment.
In fact, in 2001, child workers are more than 4 million, and 16% are aged 15-17. 6% are aged 5-9, and the remaining 94% almost equally between the age of 10-14 (48%) and 15-17 (46%). Nearly half of them (48.8%) had to work 2 days or less, while almost 20% worked in 5-6 days. And in the provinces, more than 70% are found in the rural areas and 53% are into agriculture, with 63% are consists of male child workers especially in the sugar plantations doing seasonal work.
Other than the issue of employment, Children are even exposed to degrading conditions such as petty crimes, prohibited drug use, and prostitution. In Ermita Manila, for instance, some prostitutes were below 18 years of age and exploited by foreigners through child pornography and even human trafficking; those who had been arrested due to petty crimes or vagrancy had been experienced daily extortion and bullying from the police-other than rounding up and dumped into crowded jails where they are mixed up with hardened criminals and endure worst conditions; and even used by some officials as runners between corrupt officers and criminal syndicates especially in the metro-oftentimes subjected to harassment because of disobedience.
That, according to the records of the Senate, 209 out of 1,430 jails managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology have separate cells for youth offenders. Meanwhile, 52,000 children and youth delinquents had to share the same prison cell as adults. And according to lawyers who had handled juvenile cases, children who had spend their lives in Jail with the offense he/she is charged carries only a penalty of only 10 days if not paying a fine of 50 pesos simply because they are too poor to pay the fine or engage the services of the lawyer.
It's all but strange that these people, who had been described as hopeful, had to endure conditions that is far from their aspirations; that despite being tackled seriously by politicians had not much been a concern, other than giving them crumbs; if not playing deaf, blind in regards to the exploited conditions such as seasonal work in an "Azucarera", or exploited by the authorities if being arrested.
Education can be a good solution to make these children realize their aspirations with full potential, and yet the share of public expenditure to total education remained lowest, it had been steadily declining with 2.9% contrary to 4% since 1998-1999. Meanwhile, 75% of public elementary school graduates cannot read without the help of another person, all despite having gross enrollment in Secondary schools growing higher (while the net enrollment ration as one of the lowest).
These figures shown are examples how the issue on children, and even the youth should been seriously tackled by many. That because of exploitation, negligence and repression, those who are supposedly hopeful are becoming hopeless because of their conditions given.
Furthermore, where are all the taxes go if most taxpayers, thinking about the future generation, sought the contrary such as a declining education budget and inefficient distribution of social services?
Sources: international- UNESCO, Asian Development Bank, World Bank
local- National Statistics Office, National Statistical Coordination Board