It happened in August 2016. Three year old Kean Gabriel Agustin died in the hands of his stepfather, the circumstances of which shocked the city. As a response, Mayor Sara Duterte activated the “Kean Gabriel hotline” with the number 0908-818-4444 which is open 24/7. The hotline is under the Quick Response Team for Children Center of the City Social Services and Development Office (QRTCC-CSSDO).
The team that responds to any call for help is composed of social workers, police officers, health professionals and paralegals, an inter- department effort.
Three years after this campaign was launched, the city reported that complaints of child abuse cases have decreased significantly.
CSSDO head Maria Luisa Bermudo said yesterday that collaborating with the barangays in the campaign against child abuse has contributed to its success. In 2018, the Kean Gabriel Hotline received a total of 456 calls reporting child abuse cases but for the first 10 months this year, only 94 calls reporting child abuse were logged by the hotline.
We do not lack laws that protect and promote children’s rights. But it is so ironic that those who are supposed to care for them are usually the ones who abuse them physically, psychologically and mentally. There are various efforts done by the local government and non-government organizations to safeguard children but all institutions in society should also do their part.
In schools, children should be safe from harm, including bullying and discrimination. In cyberspace, adults should be able to supervise the sites that the children are using to avoid abuse which has been quite rampant in recent months.
Creating a safe and loving space for our next generation is a continuing challenge, and we should all be part of it.