Editorial: Lessons from a murdered tot

·3 min read

“Multiple injuries” is a phrase that can only hint of the crimes committed against the two-year-old child brought to a hospital in Quezon City last April 21, 2022 shortly before midnight.

A team from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Holy Spirit Division went to the hospital after a hospital security guard reported the treatment of a child with signs of abuse.

The toddler later died from her multiple injuries. The police are investigating the woman who brought her in after she was ostensibly injured in a fall.

Officers of the QCPD Women and Child Protection Desk pointed out that the child’s injuries could not have resulted from just a fall. Aside from the bruising and swelling of her head, back, legs, and arms, the two-year-old bore scars and marks in keeping with sexual abuse.

This child who died before her third birthday suffered unimaginable trauma. According to media reports, she and an eight-month-old sibling were left last December 2021 with neighbors her mother knew when the latter left to work overseas.

Her mother remitted a few thousand pesos a month for her children. This stopped when her mother and caregivers argued over the remittance.

The children were transferred to another neighbor. This caregiver brought the toddler to the Quezon City hospital, first claiming the child fell but later admitting that she had hurt the child from the stress of caring for the toddler, its infant sibling, and the woman’s three other children.

A man who lived with the woman was also detained and investigated in connection with the sexual abuse of the toddler.

While there are laws penalizing perpetrators violating children—the suspects were charged for violating Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act—the more essential act is to prevent children’s abuse and promote their welfare.

Cebuanos cannot forget the tragic deaths of children left alone at home and perishing from fires set off by a burning candle dislodged by a cat or the children themselves. In these cases, the parents or guardians had locked the children in a room or house to go to work or gallivant.

The young Quezon City victim was no less helpless than the home-alone fire victims.

The QC police emphasize two points for children’s welfare. First, one should be careful in selecting the guardian or caregiver of one’s children. Second, the community must report the abuse of children.

In urban centers, where many are transients and extended families are rare due to the high cost of living, children are frequently left alone by parents who are working, seeking work, or engaged in vice.

The risks of vulnerability increase incrementally for children of parents or solo parents who work overseas. For as long as the country pursues a policy of promoting overseas work due to the inadequacy of local employment, livelihood, and other social support for its citizens, children will bear the brunt of this national trauma.

The QC toddler and her infant sibling were left to strangers whose guardianship was pegged on a monthly remittance. Did the children receive the food, vitamins, and other material needs due them from their mother’s earnings?

At this critical stage, infants and toddlers require utmost nurturing, including breastfeeding, to meet their physical, psychological, and mental needs.

The QCPD is tapping a psychologist to ascertain if the woman suspect is not suffering from depression as she said that minding five children drove her to rage and to kill the toddler.

What are the opportunities for women to know and practice their right to reproductive health? What about access to mental health?

The toddler’s infant sibling and the woman’s children are in the custody of the authorities.

Lapses—in reproductive health, employment and livelihood opportunities, and social support for women—took away the QC toddler. She won’t be the last unless society corrects these imbalances.

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