PHILIPPINES: Jailed Children are the Victims of World Poverty (28 July 2005)

Summary: The street children imprisoned around the
world are the most compelling evidence of the
impact of poverty in the lives of the most
vulnerable and the failure of governments to
protect and help them.

The G-Summit in Gleneagles, Edinburgh next month is dominating the
headlines and you may ask what the decisions of the heads of the world
industrial countries has to do with you or the state of the worlds poorest
people and the children in prison around the world? The answer is
everything. They hold the power of life and death because they own the
food supplies and medicines and the wealth that can give life or withhold it.

They have made themselves into the Gods of Gold in this world but they
are not the compassionate and loving gods that we revere and pray to.
They too control many governments in so called sovereign states through
the foreign debts.

It is hard to persuade these economic gods to grant favours and act out of
compassion and care for the poorest. They make promises to cancel debt
and help with more development aid but will they deliver? The only Golden
Rule they follow is, "we have the gold and therefore we rule".

That kind of attitude has caused untold suffering and poverty driving
millions to seek work abroad, abandoned children that have to live on the
streets where they are arrested and imprisoned. The rich nations have
dominated the world economy with policies that divide and conquer
globalisation of trade rules that have favoured them and their industries.

The poor are crushed by the huge subsidies the rich give to their farmers.
The poor cannot sell into their markets. That's why Fair Trade is the call of
the committed. The death rate of the powerless starving masses is only
recently a matter of concern for them as public opinion brings many people
to stand up to question challenge and condemn their inaction and lack of

The street children imprisoned around the world are the most compelling
evidence of the impact of poverty in the lives of the most vulnerable and
the failure of governments to protect and help them. There are an estimate
20,000 children in prison in the Philippines through out a single year. They
are usually falsely accused because they are homeless, vulnerable and
cannot defend themselves. Some seal food form the market, are using
forbidden solvents to ease the pains of hunger and loneliness. They are
the victims of a unjust and cruel system of imprisonment that we are trying
to change.

These children in prison are frequently mixed with adult prisoners and
sexually abused in the over packed cells. Here eighty to a hundred
prisoners squat for 24 hours taking turns at lying down so congested are
the small cells. The heat and stench is overpowering, the food is only a few
cents a day and disease, malnutrition and tuberculosis are the daily hazard
suffered by the children.

Most are innocent of any crime and the youngest we found was 6-year-old
children and as young as eight to 14 are common.

With the help of the supreme court, the rules of the family Court have been
modified to allow the children to be released to a Children Home if there is
one that can cope with them.

That's what is happening now. Preda has established one just to take the
children out of jail and give them a new change to be free from abuse,
hunger and disease and give the education and a new start in life.

This week Preda foundation in the Philippines and Jubilee Action in
Guildford, Surrey England, launch a campaign to end the imprisonment of
children in the horrific conditions not even fit for animals. The campaign
supported by Lord David Alton and other leading British politicians is to
persuade the United Nations to appoint a special representative and
envoy for imprisoned children and to reduce the number of kids in jail by
two-thirds by 2010. It will also attempt to persuade the Philippine
President to certify the pending juvenile justice bill as urgent and to
persuade the Philippine congress to pass it quickly.

Independent television broadcasts the condition of children in Philippine
jails and what is being done to help them.

Changing the world by freeing the children and making this a decent world
for them means we need more than ever our spiritual vision and conviction
about the dignity of the human person, and protecting the children in
poverty and jails. This is the freedom and dignity needed in the world, a
dignity worth saving everywhere.



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