I remember myself at 9 | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

I remember myself at 9

I remember myself aged nine and my mother telling me to buy something in the public market. It wasn’t at all hard to get there, requiring a walk of just about 200 meters from our house in the province of Nueva Ecija, first passing the local fire station and then, at the back, the police station, after which there was the “Pamilihang Bayan.”

It was an easy walk, or what you would call a shortcut. But I often chose not to use it.


I was afraid of the dogs in the police station. There were two—one black and the other white. Once they spotted you approaching the station, they would start barking.

And when they sensed that you were afraid of them, they would chase you.


It was always a nightmare for me—the sight of the dogs, their teeth bared as though they were ready to eat me alive, and myself running for my life. They never got me, of course, thanks to my long legs and my pituitary gland that released a lot of adrenaline.

But it was not just the fearsome dogs that would push you to take the long way to the market. You also had to cope with the men imprisoned at the police station. Walking by the side of the station, you will see a small, rectangular window sealed off from the world by steel bars. Beyond

it, you will see them, their faces hopeless, unshaven, toothless, even the tattoos on their skin, asking passersby for food or a cigarette.

I was afraid to look at the window whenever I chose the easier way. Sometimes the prisoners would call me, and I would ignore them, keeping my eyes straight ahead while my heart raced. My innocence dictated that all people in prison were bad people, that they were monsters, and that they should be held behind bars in order for them not to harm children like me. My head was filled with questions: What have they done? Did they steal? Did they kill people? Or maybe they kidnapped children and sold their internal organs, spilling their blood on the bridge?

Those were things my 9-year-old self would never do. And now that I am of legal age, crimes like that are the last things I would commit. And never, ever, in my wildest dreams can I imagine my 9-year-old self—skinny, playful, innocent—being clapped in jail.

And yet the government wants to lower the age of crime liability from 15 to 9, as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez proposes in House Bill No. 002. According to Alvarez, the crime rate is rising because children are being used as couriers of drugs.

You will imprison these children just because they are being used as drug couriers? But is it their fault, in the first place? (Note the use of the word “used.”) They may know right and wrong in their nine years of life, but still they are boxed in by the idea that they should follow what older people tell them to do. They are afraid that if they don’t follow orders, they will suffer physical punishment or, worse, get killed.


It is saddening that these children are being affected by the war on drugs. The government will put these “couriers” in jail instead of finding the drug lords and other people behind the trade in illegal drugs.

Children should be fed, clothed and educated, and not be used according to adults’ selfish motives. They are our future, and most likely the answer to the problems we are still unable to solve. As national hero Jose Rizal said, the youth are the hope of the motherland. Why would you want to imprison them, to take what life can offer to them, and to destroy the bright possibilities of their future?

There are many solutions if these children are really in conflict with the law. The government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, related agencies, and even rehabilitation centers, should help these children realize the error of their ways and give them the support and hope that they need most.

The image of my 9-year-old self in the old police station, peering through the small window sealed off from the world  by steel bars, is the worst that my mind can project.

Neil Angelo S. Cirilo, 18, is a business administration sophomore at Central Luzon State University and the opinion editor of its official student publication, CLSU Collegian.

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