‘DON’T SENSATIONALIZE’ Officials: minors in illegal activities are ‘victims’

A police officer attends to minors who were “rescued” after violating the curfew ordinance in August 2019. (Photo from WCPD-ICPO Facebook page)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

AUTHORITIES appealed to the media to stop sensationalizing issues and reports involving minors.

Task Force on Morals and Values Formation chief Nestor Canong on Tuesday said that information on children involved in exploitation and the curfew ordinance should be given utmost importance and confidentiality.

According to Canong, the media and even the public should be careful on reporting and reacting to issues since the concerned children already experienced trauma and abuses.

Canong raised the matter when representatives of TFMVF, alongside Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD) of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO), City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), Local Economic and Enterprise Office (LEEO), Task Force on Internet and Gaming Center, Anti-Piracy and Pornography (IGCAPP) met with journalists on Tuesday.

Ang amon ginapangayo, do not sensationalize, iban nga maguluwa nga issues especially if it involves minors, kabudlay maguluwa ang info and ang mga kabtaan gaka-igo, ang trauma sa mga bata, kasakitMaluoy ka sa ila mindset,” he said.

Canong said that they have been very confidential, especially in conducting entrapment and rescue operations, since these involved minors.

“In fact, ginalikawan namon ang media because may iban nga indi kahulat. We know nga more kamo sa competitiveness para nga makauna haboy maskin mga hint pero at times ginatago namon because may mga menor nga kabataan,” he stressed.

The meeting was an offshoot of the recent tagging of Iloilo Terminal Market as a “sex den” which made headlines since last week.

Reports surfaced that the market is being used as “sex dens” or lodging houses by commercial sex workers.

Mayor Jerry Treñas also confirmed that prostitution happened at Super and he ordered strict implementation of policies and intervention on the area.

“Super” vendors had denied the allegations.

During the meeting, police authorities and city government officials clarified that the rescued minors from the Iloilo Terminal Market were not “sexually prostituted” but violators of the city’s curfew ordinance.

The 14 children rescued by authorities last August 30, 2019 were minors wandering in the markets and violators of the city’s curfew ordinance, according to Police Chief Master Sergeant Debbie Yocogco of WCPD.

Yocogco said she was the one who called for the rescue operations of the minors following reports of fraternity hazing in the area.

“Dira nga area may gakatabo nga hazing wherein gasakit gid sila to conduct their initiation rites that is why I initiated to call for an operation kay basi maglala,” she said.

She clarified that they have not caught minors engaging in sexual activities.

Amo na indi ko maghambal sex den, because wala kami may nadakop sa akto kay wala sang may natabo. Rescue to ya sang minors. May initiation gakatabo indi tungod sa sex den,” Yocogco emphasized.

Rara Ganzon, focal person of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) added that 12 of the 14 minors rescued were turned over to their parents.

“What sounded kasi was there was a rescue operation and a sex den was happening,” she said.

Only two of them were turned over to the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) of the CSWDO because they were not residents of the city, she added.

From January to September 3, 2019, WCPD’s daily operations rescued 603 minors.

But, police authorities confirmed that sexual exploitation has been going on in the city.

In fact, the composite team have been conducting entrapment operations against pimps using women and children.

“In the CIU, we have rescued children and girls from the metro who were neglected, abused, and neglected children, children, in conflict with the law, we don’t see them as perpetrators but as victims of circumstances,” Ganzon said.

Despite being involved in illegal activities, Ganzon said that children still have rights which should be protected.

Medyo, sensitive lang ako when it comes to children, because even if they get prostituted or do such acts,  do such thing, let us remember they are still children, they have their laws and rights to protect them, and we are here just as adults to protect, we cannot further aggravate their situation,” she stressed.

She also appealed not only to the media but also to the public who might have information on sexual trafficking in the metro to cooperate with the authorities.

“We need your help, because we cannot do it alone. It takes a village to raise a child in the same way that it takes a village or community or the city to help somebody who is abandoned, neglected, or sexually abused,” she said.