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Editorial: Disturbing details.

May 21, 2015 ·  By (Sun Star Cebu newspaper )

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THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will wind up in a few days its investigation into the death of 11-year-old Chastity Mirabiles. Mirabiles died hours after she was brought by policemen to the Fuente Police Station on April 5, Easter Sunday, supposedly as part of Oplan Libud-Suroy, which is intended to “rescue” street children.

The NBI is expected to file a murder charge against some Fuente Police Station policemen although the relieved police station chief, Wildemar Tiu, may be cleared of accusations he was the one who mauled the child. But he may still be held liable for command responsibility.

While the investigation has provided details on the circumstances surrounding Chastity’s death, it also exposed disturbing details on how the Fuente Police Station policemen may have been dealing with street children in their jurisdiction. The operating procedure followed by the Fuente operatives in rounding up these kids can be a major concern.

Even before Tiu became the police station chief, the activities of some street children roaming the Fuente Osmeña circle and its surrounding areas have been a law enforcement problem. Reports of them robbing in band unsuspecting foreigners have apparently affected people’s perception and the police officers’ treatment of all of them.

This treatment varied depending on the assigned police chief. One of Tiu’s predecessors dangled the carrot by feeding and dressing them, even letting them stay in the police station and sending them to school. When Tiu took over, he seemed to have favored the use of the stick.

“Rescuing” street children requires protocols, like doing it in the presence of social workers, in this case from the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS). That was not followed probably because social workers would have interfered with the approach the policemen used in dealing with the street children.

A witness, also 11 years of age, provided NBI probers with a glimpse of how elements of the Fuente police allegedly implemented Operation Libud-Suroy. The child pictured physical abuse as routine. Other techniques, like the shaving of heads, were also allegedly applied.

The Police Regional Office 7 should use the information culled from the probe into the death of Chastity Mirabeles to come up with additional guidelines on the conduct of police operations against street children.

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