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At Large

When home is a place of fear

/ 05:04 AM November 07, 2018

Home is — or should be — a place of safety and security, where every member of the family finds validation, nurturing and value. But for every three out of five Filipino children, home is a place of danger, threat, intimidation and abuse. And the truly scandalous and heartbreaking thing about this is that often the violence is inflicted by people the children trust, rely on and love — parents, siblings and other relatives.

This is a finding of the 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence against Children of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC). One issue of utmost concern is that for many Filipino parents, the use of violence is innocuous, if not necessary, so that children would grow up disciplined and respectful of their elders.

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But lawyer Albert Muyot, CEO of Save the Children Philippines, takes a different view. “Parents should realize that children are not their possessions, thus, hitting them is wrong and is never acceptable,” he says. Filipino parents, he pointed out, are usually outraged when other people hurt their children, but many believe that when they hit their own child, it’s proof that they care for the child.

Physical and verbal punishment in childhood, he believes, leave lifelong scars. “Violence begets violence,” Muyot adds. “Young children who experience corporal punishment are left with feelings of fear, shame, rage, revenge and hostility.” Now imagine the impact of childhood violence multiplied a millionfold, and you have a society that is not just accepting but actively supportive of the use of deadly force.

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This is why Save the Children is partnering with other child-centered organizations to promote the “Positive Discipline” bill in the legislature, calling on parents and caregivers to “help build a safe environment for children amid the spike in [the number of] cases of violence against
children at home.”

November also happens to be National Children’s Month, with activities carried out not just by Save the Children but also by the CWC, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Youth Commission.

The good news, then, is that the Positive Discipline bill is set for third and final reading in the House and Senate by the middle of the month, and is expected to be ratified before the year ends.

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Residents of Ayala Alabang Village and parishioners of St. James the Great Parish have written to contest some of the points raised by members of GRACE, the Group of Residents Against Commercial Expansion in the village.

A parishioner provided a copy of a statement issued by parish priest Fr. Rolando Agustin, in which he states that the proposed Formation Center will be used solely by parish and other religious organizations and not for any commercial purpose. This includes wedding receptions “except for those of St. James parishioners and residents,” a mortuary or funeral parlor and an amphitheater “whatsoever.” Another resident also denied that drivers of Mass-goers are forbidden from using the toilet facilities, in which case I’m happy for the drivers and the public at large.

The issue of the Formation Center and the use of the church facilities for purposes other than worship seems to me to go beyond just parking and congestion and the inconveniences caused to residents in the area around the church. There is, for one, the matter of governance and accountability, with decision-making wielded by the unelected “Foundation” with undue influence on the homeowners’ association and even the barangay council.

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It strikes me as ironic that in a village which counts among its residents some of the most powerful corporate and business figures in the country, a central part of the community — the parish church — should be left in the hands of a small group of residents with the, at times, active cooperation of the parish priest.

This may strike many as just a tempest in a village teapot. But it is emblematic of how power is wielded in small, basic units of governance. The galling feature of the Ayala Alabang imbroglio, though, is how faith and religion are being used to intimidate critics.

rdavid@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: Albert Muyot, At Large, Ayala Alabang Village, Child abuse, domestic violence, grace, Group of Residents Against Commercial Expansion, home, rina jimenez david, Save the Children
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