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Rough Cuts | Caring for the mentally-challenged

We had coffee last Thursday afternoon with our good friend Melchor Labajo in a small fast food and coffee shop he oversees at the corners of Palma Gil and C. Bangoy st., Davao City. The fast food is right in front of the headquarters of the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network (UMBN) and the editorial office of this newspaper.

While sipping our coffee our conversation subject ranged from politics to delivery of social services and the agency that should be responsible for such.

In our subject on politics we tackled the other face of the political squabble between Davao del Norte first district Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez and his erstwhile friend, former congressman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. This time the new face of the enmity comes in the form of the supposedly religious compliance of a presidential order for local governments to clear roads of obstruction for easy use of the people.

Our friend Bai Melchor shared his observation that this time the one taking the lead in the political drama is Gov. Edwin Jubahib of the province, a known Alvarez man.

His demolition men descended middle of last week at the Tanglaw gate of the Floirendo family-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (TADECO), a giant banana corporate farm. Using the President’s instruction, Jubahib wanted to demolish the security and quarantine installations at the gate so that residents in the barangays at the other side of the massive farm can access their community with minimum time of travel.

On the other hand, the farm security officers held their grounds claiming that the road is a private one, and built by the company for the purpose of its own operation. Thus, the use of the road by the public must be regulated for the security of the farm’s offices and facilities, as well as to protect the bananas from getting infected with foot and soil-borne plant diseases.

Our friend Melchor opined that the standoff could have resulted in a confrontation, and may be bloody at that. But he hastened to ask whether there was truth to the report that President Duterte and Sen. Bong Go, as well as Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Manny Pinol had intervened to diffuse the smoldering tension.

So, if such was the case, then the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stopping the clearing could just be the legal cover to shade the “retreat” of Governor Jubahib.

Well, our guess may be the same as yours dear readers.

It was at this instance that suddenly, a man about 50 years old by his looks crossed the street. Those he met on the middle of the road avoided getting near him.

From the appearance of the man we seemed to understand the actuations of those who scurried away from him. The guy was almost naked and his clothes were tattered exposing more than half of his body. His hair disheveled with dirt carried by the sweat falling from his head.

By our own estimation the man must not have taken a bath for the longest time already. He was barefooted and the nails of his hands and feet were black with dirt. Naturally it follows that his smell was disturbing to the nose.

And the two of us just did not mind when he passed by near the side of the road we were seated. We personally confirmed our earlier thought that the man really stinks. However, he just simply passed by us. He did not ask for anything. Instead he gave us a blank stare, even as the other customers and those on the road side waiting for their rides appeared to have squirmed and followed the man with a mocking look.

As the man was lost amid the growing number of vehicles starting to get stuck in afternoon traffic our friend Bai Melchor and us changed our topic. Both of us agreed that the man who just passed by was a mental case and that his family may have already given up on him or denied him as member.

Immediately Bai Melchor asked us whether there is a government agency that is tasked to provide assistance to persons with mental cases.

Frankly we were unable to give him a definite answer. But we toyed with the idea that the Department of Social Services and Development (DSWD) or the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) may have the mandate.

The two of us are aware that there is the national government-run Davao Mental Hospital along J.P. Laurel Avenue. We know the services of employees of the institution are intended to provide medical care for persons with mental illness.

The problem that the two of us see is, if no family members of the street dwelling mentally-challenged persons ever show interest for their unfortunate relatives by owning them and referring them to the mental institution, then who will?

We wonder if the DSWD and the CSSDO can find time to review their mandate and check out if they just missed their responsibilities towards these ostracized members of society.

Or, maybe Third District Councilor Dr. Joselle Villafuerte, chair of the Sangguniang Panlungsod Committee on Health, can find ways to let the city government intervene on the cases of the mentally-challenged among its constituents.

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