COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
During the early Martial Law years’ borrowing spree to finance New Society or Bagong Lipunan, there was this cliché or folk wisdom saying that “our grandchildren will pay for the debt” incurred by the government. Now the children born under those years are now having their offspring and true to that saying this third generation of children are paying
for that debt; thru child labor.
In the sixties and the decades before that when the peso was not yet devalued, it was possible for the man as head of the family to be the sole breadwinner of the household, supporting wife and kids. That was the natural order of things.
But the decades that followed alongside with heavy foreign borrowings employed by the government, it takes two or both parents to make ends meet. What with the accompanying inflation giving rise to price increase in basic commodities and a consequent high cost of living. This was coupled with stagnation of wages and salaries.
And now comes 21st century Philippines or over a generation has passed since that folk wisdom was spread, it seems that each member of the household – man, woman, and child as early as five has to contribute to the family coffer in order to survive.
In 2006, IBON Databank accounted an estimated 2.5M children from 5-17 years of age working either to augment family income or simply to survive. More than 14M of our children are poor, being dependents of parents or guardians living below poverty line.
I don’t like dealing with statistics for it can be as cold-blooded as it can get, reducing all these children working in the streets, farms, and factories into mere numbers. The simple point is: Those children should be in their homes or at school!
Child labor is not anymore an individual problem ascribed only to some dysfunctional families or a sectoral problem that concerns only a particular group of people in our society, but a social problem that the government has to come in. This ugly phenomenon strikes at the root of our humanity.
While we flaunt democracy in the practice of governance we deprive our very young their right to be humans; not even provided with their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. They ought to be in school to become productive citizens and not out on the streets peddling, begging, or sniffing rugby. And while people on the other side of the world are clamoring for animal rights, treating their cats and dogs like humans, we deny our children their right to be protected by law.
But where have all the money from all these government borrowings gone? The tall buildings towering our cityscapes belong to the private sector. To the substandard roads that need to be repaired every now and then? To waste due to bureaucratic inefficiency? To the real scavengers who dip their hands in public funds?
Probably despite all our maladies and calamities, natural and man-made, the government at least should have the decency to feed the younger ones.