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Child rape seen symptom of bigger Zamboanga City crisis

July 11, 2014 · 


ZAMBOANGA CITY—The rape of a 6-year-old girl in an evacuation camp here is turning the spotlight on the continued suffering of city residents who fled a terror attack and a government offensive last year and who, for still unexplained reasons, languish in shelters with no power, potable water and food.The story of the girl’s rape caught the attention of social workers after another child, an 11-year-old boy, was tagged the culprit. The story took a new turn and led to the girl’s grandfather being the offender.

But for Dr. Marcy Carpizo, head of Western Mindanao State University’s peace and human security program, the rape of the child was just a symptom of a bigger problem in the evacuation center here, or Joaquin

F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex.

To liken the camp and its people to a can packed with sardines would be an understatement. People and families who barely know each other are crammed into a space that has no ventilation, no running water, barely any food and no privacy.

“A lot of things can happen under these conditions,” said Carpizo, who said people should be moved out of the hellish situation that they are in inside the shelter.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), up to 40,000 people continue to depend on humanitarian assistance nine months after the city came under siege during a terror attack by followers of Moro leader Nur Misuari and the armed response of the government.

Many of these people, ICRC said, are in overcrowded evacuation centers while some live with relatives.

Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said in an e-mail statement that he agreed with experts who said that relocation was an answer to the evacuees’ suffering.

Mauchle, however, said the government should ensure that water and sanitation would first be made available in places where evacuees would be moved to.

Many of the evacuees refuse to relocate for fear they could end up in a worse situation, like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Ma. Socorro Rojas, city social welfare officer, told the Inquirer on Thursday that the raped girl had corrected her earlier statement pointing to the boy as her rapist.

It turned out that the girl’s rapist was her own grandfather, a 60-year-old man who is also living in the evacuation center.

The girl’s rape was discovered when she was taken to a hospital for tests due to recurring fever. It turned out that the fever was a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease. Further tests showed that she was repeatedly raped.

Authorities had taken the boy into custody but after the story was corrected, they instead took the grandfather into custody. The man, though, was released after police said they were conducting further investigation.

Rojas said other cases of sexual abuse had been documented in evacuation centers in the city. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao


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