By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
Some forty years ago in the ‘60s, my late cousin and his barkada, all of them students of Baguio City High School, were ambushed by another school gang in Burnham Park. Both groups sustained cuts and bruises especially by the marauding group because my cousin, strong and burly, happened to be carrying some tools to repair water pipes at home. The police rescued them from further beating each other up and a case was filed and heard and settled in court, where the warring boys were scolded and warned by the judge before their parents.
The story of this incident was retold many times among the male members of the clan because the judge didn’t know what a monkey wrench was. In my clan storybook, that was a period when every high school, public and private in Baguio and La Trinidad, had their own gang of bullies whom the police knew and watched out for, not necessarily as criminals but as “bad boys needing more guidance.” That was a time when a policeman in the street could scold a kid if he was not in school during school hours and would even bring the erring kid to school. If that care and concern for the community still exists today among our city and school officials, police and other government officials, then let us nurture it.
Four years ago, in a Catholic School, some bullies led by a 21 year old high school boy, all of whom were older and overstaying high school students, chose to implicate two of my nephews by “planting” a box of alleged marijuana leaves in their boarding house. All because my nephews beat them badly in a brawl in school where the bullies tried to prove they rule. Despite the excellent academic and discipline record of both my nephews in that school, the principal and the school priest decided to expel them. Then both school elders tried to justify their decision by explaining they were protecting my nephews from these “hardened juvenile delinquents” who they didn’t expel instead at that time. The principal even tried to put blame on their mother (my sister-in-law), for a brawl that happened in the school premises – in their jurisdiction!
This case was badly handled by the school. With deep concern, the police head there then told us that the older bully was a relative of the local mayor (who protects him) and he gave his personal advice that it was safer if we can take my nephews away because the school authorities are helpless against the mayor and his 21 year old brat. The mayor, priest and principal chose to be part of the problem.
Two years ago, another nephew of mine was badly mauled inside the premises of the Baguio City High School by a gang in the school because they thought he was courting some girl (one of his best friends). He was brought to the school clinic then later to the hospital when his parents were called. The case was taken up by the principal and the school guidance counselor with the involved students and then with their parents. All agreed to work to discipline and watch out for the kids. Complaints could have been formally filed, if the parents were not satisfied by the way the case and the kids involved were processed by the authorities responsible. But they all agreed to be part of the solution.
Last Sunday, teenage high school boys who earned school allowances by selling and distributing newspapers on Sunday were pursued and mauled by a barkada of boys in barangay Gabriela Silang that resulted in the puncture of the right lung of one of the boys. One of them believed their pursuers were students in City High. This traumatic experience has scared both the kids and their parents that they are deciding to drop out of school.
In this incident, the two boys decided to leave their homes early dawn (3:30) because they would walk to work so they can save on taxi fare. On the road, they felt they were being followed by a group of four males who later threateningly called their attention and ran after them. They ran in different directions, while their pursuers split in twos. One boy (aged 17) found an open gate in the nick of time as they lunged an ice pick at him, which tore through his shirt and nicked his side. He took refuge inside the gate despite the threatening barking dog until his pursuers left. Worried about his companion, he took a cab straight to the main police station (Station 7).
The other boy (aged 15) out-ran his pursuers by a kilometer but they took a taxicab and caught up with him, boxed and kicked him then stabbed him with an ice pick. They must have left him when he lost consciousness because when he woke he was alone. His first thought was of safety and of seeking help; so he walked to his father’s workplace where he knew there would be a security guard during that early hour who could help him. It was along the way that he felt blood on his back and knew he was stabbed. He felt he lost consciousness again, but when he woke he persisted at reaching his destination where the security guard called a cab and instructed the driver to take the boy to the hospital.
Meanwhile, in Police Station 7, Boy 17 – scared out of his wits, mauled – was asking for help to seek for his missing companion and to file his complaint. Instead of heeding the urgent appeal, the man at the desk insisted that the boy file his report at Station 4 in Scout Barrio (which later he found to have been moved to PEZA, Loakan) – which meant he would have to go through the area where he was attacked. Rebuffed, tired, penniless and badly traumatized, the 17 year old boy decided to walk down to the printing press and wait for Brenda D. who came to pick up the newspaper a bit after 5 a.m..
As she was being told of the emergency, Brenda and Boy 17 took the newspaper bundles, hurriedly delivered them to the outlets, and started making phone calls for others to help look for Boy 15. Then they decided to go to Station 4 to file a report. They found the old Station 4 in Scout Barrio and of course no one was there. So they returned to Station 7 – where Brenda found out that Boy 17’s earlier report was not recorded and no action was made. Meanwhile, they received a call saying that Boy 15 was already being treated in the hospital.
Maybe if that deskman in Station 7, even if the incident’s location was out of their jurisdiction, could have called Station 4 to send out a patrol car to look out for Boy 15 and the culprits right then and there at 4 a.m., then maybe Boy 15 could have been located and brought to the hospital earlier, and maybe arrests or at least identification of the culprits could have been made soon afterwards.
This incident clearly leaves some bad impressions: the police deskman discriminates against taking and checking on emergencies reported by young boys at dawn; or the police isn’t really concerned about the safety of the youth; nor is it interested to get at the bottom of this teenage gang problem.
Now the scenario would look like, after the medical treatment and physical injuries are healed, the continued safety of these two boys is now only up to them and their parents. And, because we can now barely rely on the police and authorities to catch the culprits, these boys will have to take a high risk in going back to school and just walking on the street, because a gang has identified them as their target.
Our City Mayor and City Police Chief have recently made very strong statements before the press to inform the population and to impress their plans against perceived juvenile crimes and the existence of teenage gangs. They have expressed the fear that these teenage gangs may be local versions of the bad-boy gangs of the West, usually identified with street violence and drug trafficking. The mayor has also declared that he will be the terror of these gangs and that he wants to do his best to instill discipline on the youth in the coming months as he called for the cooperation of all agencies.
What can the real gang bullies say? … “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” #