Alamon: No brain(er)

A COMMENTARY was published in a leading national newspaper last May 9, 2017 that attempted to reverse the wave of public indignation versus Senator Tito Sotto’s foul remarks against Secretary Judy Taguiwalo in the last Commission on Appointments meeting.

The author offered advice to the beleaguered senator about the best way to crush the secretary. The Senator should not have raised Madame Judy’s status as a single mother, the writer opined. Instead, he should have questioned the secretary’s politics that to the author’s mind was more scandalous than whatever moral judgments we have of single mothers.

The honorable senator should be cautioned against taking on the offered advice. As it is, he already has trouble not tripping on his own crass utterances, he should be wary of whispering messengers with forked tongues.

The piece actually reeked of a last-minute demolition job from quarters, who are not too happy with the feted secretary’s increasing reputation as one of the best performing cabinet secretaries of the Duterte administration. So they attack her politics, which, ironically, is actually the good secretary’s strongest asset.

It is no secret that the Secretary’s appointment is a manifestation of this administration’s commitment to the peace process with the Left, and her successes so far in delivering social services directly to those that need them most in a fast and timely manner are manifestations of her pro-people background and training. As a consequence, she has earned the ire of some sectors because of her insistence to de-politicize much needed access to social services by the common tao.

The issue that the writer specifically raises is the supposed shift in the department’s policy and outlook on the issue of child soldiers under Secretary Taguiwalo with the apparent withdrawal of support for Housebill 1280 sponsored by Congressman Belmonte of Quezon City.

He foregrounds his argument by citing two sensational cases of child soldiers. The cases of Aida and Dodong, which I presume are not their real names, are readily available for anyone’s perusal on the web. A close reading of the articles and testimonies from these two actually indicate children under a state of duress. The transcripts of Aida’s interview posted on the internet is actually painful and discomforting to read for they relay the stress and anxiety of a child in custody of those she fears. It is a wonder if child advocates of a particularly color recognize the continued violence that they inflict on these children when they willingly allow the stories of children captured by the Philippine military to be used for propaganda. One need only remember the case of nine-year old Grecil Buya of Compostela Valley who was shot and killed in a crossfire last March 31, 2017 and later depicted to have been a child soldier by the military with a rifle taller that was as tall as her.

Genuine child advocates understand the complex historical and systemic reasons from where “community-based insurgency” contexts arise. It is from the well-spring of long-term and massive social dissatisfactions of communities where many of these children depicted by government forces as child soldiers emerge.

Then Professor Judy Taguiwalo wrote a paper on this issue way back in 2008 when the United Nations sought to expand the definition of child soldiers to include children “associated with armed groups.”

Critiquing the Paris Principles of 2007, the paper insisted that the Philippine experience is not the same as the African experience where children were forcibly recruited to join armed bands since, here, given the long history of struggle of communities against foreign and local domination, community-based insurgencies have taken root. By expanding the definition, the multi-lateral institutions de facto label children in these resisting communities as child soldiers and become subject to persecution from state forces.

Whereas the “protection” of children in areas of conflict for the writer of the commentary cited above is a “no-brainer,” to be circumspect on a complex issue that approximately involves half a million children in armed conflict areas in the country automatically makes one complicit to the recruitment of child soldiers if we go by the logic of the author. The issue of child soldiers is not as simple and as cut and dried as the author depicts it to be.

It reeks of a malicious intent to red-tag the good secretary when being red, in this instance, means taking into account the best interests of Filipino children from the standpoint of an astute and well-studied understanding of the complexities of Philippine social realities.

Secretary Taguiwalo should be confirmed precisely because she is from the left.