President Rodrigo Duterte 080816Duterte says he can order rounding up “tambays” (link), citing the parens patriae doctrine (link) – the power of the state to “intervene against an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian, or informal caretaker, and to act as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection.” Yet one wonders what kind of parent or guardian would put children in jails like those shown in a recent Al Jazeera report (link) which says that “Philippine law prohibits jailing minors but in the absence of separate detention facilities for them, they usually end up in the same jail cells..”.

The same government wants to administer mandatory drug tests to minors starting 10 years old – and not even the Church seems to oppose it (link). If that is parenthood, it not just conservative, it is reactionary. It makes every child a suspect, born with original sin but without any grace of God. One might be tempted to think that the government and church are back in the early 19th century, and that the Spanish in their palace are saying “nothing good will ever come of these Indios”- except that some supporters of Duterte proudly call him “Indio” (link) for his anti-Catholic rhetoric.

There are even ideas being floated that could scrap the 4Ps (link) which have proven effective in reducing poverty, giving poor children more of a chance to go to school. No child should ever be disadvantaged for the circumstances that made its parents poor – it is not the fault of the child. Unfortunately, the anti-tambay measures, the so-called drug war and more marginalize especially the poor Filipinos. There are those who say that as intelligence is mainly inherited, the poor will most likely be poor because of stupid genes – some are even those smart enough to know better.

Some people may be poor because of bad luck. A sickness they could not pay for, no large enough family, no OFWs or corrupt officials in it to help out with the costs – and savings can be depleted. PhilHealth coverage as it is today in the Philippines is new. Or weaknesses of personality that lead to gambling or drug addiction, dragging everybody down. The medieval mindset in the Philippines sees mental illness and drug addiction as stigmata. Add to that the Social Darwinism of the rich and the new middle classes. The old middle classes may just look away – or at most offer their prayers.

Lowering the age of criminal liability is dropped for now (link) but the mindset is still there. Native wisdom says the children have a mind of their own (may isip) at 7 years, which corresponds to what Jean Piaget (link) says. Almost all earliest memories we have start around that age. But is a child of 10 aware enough to know the full scope of all of its actions? Even teens can be a bit amoral at times. Guiding the young means teaching them to be part of society. Just punishing them teaches them:  “don’t get caught. If caught, don’t admit”. Are these the only “values” that “Punishers” really have?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 30 June 2018