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Childhood ruined

We all miss our simpler days—back when our entire lives seemed to stretch before us, the whole world was still unexplored, our actions affected nobody else, and our decisions had fewer consequences. It seemed like childhood was that one stage in life when we were all afforded pure, unadulterated bliss.

But childhood seems to get cut shorter as the years go by. Children grow faster than they ought to, shrugging off childlike ways with eagerness and disdain, until childhood is but only a short window of years. And as recent events reveal, these may be the most challenging and worrisome years for our children.

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To raise a child today is no walk in the park. And to be one again in such unpredictable times? Childhood is one big challenge these days.

Last month, the House committee on justice approved a bill that lowered the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old. The bill, according to lawmakers, does not necessarily send offending children to jail, but rather to a “reformative institution” when proven guilty of a serious crime.

The bill aimed to address the use of children by crime syndicates. It was expectedly met with outrage. Come to think about it, crime syndicates would just start targeting children lower than 12. That’s how insidious they think. Meanwhile, our reformative institutions, though not considered jails, are in dismal condition unfit for reformation—if that’s what these facilities are intended for in the first place.

Earlier this month, the Philippine National Police warned parents of kidnapping attempts on children as young as 4 years old. It’s the stuff of urban legends already prevalent in my childhood years. A white van would supposedly course through school roads and pick a lone child off the street. The kid’s organs would be sold, or become variables in mad experiments.

But a recent viral video captured by surveillance cameras showed a man luring children with a guitar. The purpose was to kidnap children and sell them to buyers for a couple of thousands. These kidnapping attempts also aim to use the children for online sexual exploitation.

The country is, in fact, dealing with the worsening sexual exploitation of minors. According to a report, 30 percent of pedophiles under surveillance by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had visited the Philippines. This sickening scenario persists because there is demand, and it is facilitated by the internet and mobile devices.

People who are desperate for survival can be forced to do despicable things. Children are trafficked online, sometimes even by their own relatives who profit from the practice.

Sexual offenses against children are not just rampant in cyberspace. As old as the white van tall tales are the outcries against sexual offenses committed by some powerful clergymen on minors and women.

I grew up hearing these stories while I served for some time as an altar boy in church. Growing up while active in the local parish gives you an idea about the power of the clergy, which is dangerous in the hands of inappropriate people.

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Rome held an assembly on the matter, but it was still criticized for its lack of concrete actions, failure to involve the appropriate stakeholders, and inability to denounce the offenders within the Church ranks.

Meanwhile, in the deep corners of the internet, the “Momo challenge” has alarmed parents, because this online challenge built on supernatural fear and panic is said to be causing children to do harmful things, not only to others but also to themselves.

Childhood ruined is a phrase used to mean that our childhood beliefs and stories would acquire totally different meanings later in adulthood. For example,  I remember reading about “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and how he used the magic of his music to lure the children away from Hamelin. I used to love that story as a child, but it seems even more resonant today, with many kids being wrenched away from their childhood too soon. The pied piper is not only childhood ruined. The folk tale and reality both ask, “Who will save the children?”

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TAGS: age of criminal responsibility, child, childhood ruined, column, crime, IAmGenM, internet, PNP, Police, Sexual Exploitation
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