Inside out

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Hunger, not strike, killed 3-year-old boy — rights group

Posted by Abi Kwok on August 19, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 19:09:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines – A children’s rights group on Tuesday accused the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of issuing “irresponsible and false statements” over the death of a three-year old boy in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) executive director Ma. Esmeralda Macaspac said the death of Jenny Balleza last August 11 was not because his parents forced him to go on a hunger strike, but because several families in the area were displaced and had nothing to eat for several days.

Doctors claimed Balleza died from cardio-respiratory arrest due to complications caused by dehydration, pneumonia, and malnutrition.

The City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) in Cadiz City earlier released a statement condemning the parents of Balleza, saying the ongoing hunger strike in the area was what killed the child.

Balleza was the son of Rodrigo, a farmer who was detained on charges of illegal logging. Families of arrested farmers were allegedly going on a hunger strike for months now to demand the release of their family members

“That can be considered as neglect of duty. As parents, they should ensure the welfare of their children,” CSWDO’s Elen Serenias said.

But Macaspac said the families were not on a hunger strike but were displaced because of the alleged harassments and killings of farmers facing charges of illegal logging.

“The illegal arrest and detention of these farmers deprived their wives and children of their source of daily sustenance. With the fear and anxiety over further harassment, they had no choice but to leave their homes,” she added.

Balleza was one of the 66 children and 13 adults who remained camped out in Cadiz City. The camp-out was allegedly part of a “coping mechanism” for the families because they had nowhere else to go.

“It should be the DSWD’s duty, under RA 7610, to provide immediate help to displaced children-victims of militarization,” Macaspac added.


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