Ligao children traumatized by armed encounter

Ligao City--The children who witnessed the gunfight between forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last Feb. 18 in barangay Balanac are severely traumatized, according to Cylek Manano of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center.

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center is a non-government organization which helps children involved in armed conflicts in the country cope with physical health problems and emotional disorders.

According to Manano, the children in the said barangay have shown indications of severe stress and trauma due to the encounter. A one-year four-month old baby, Rafaela Polvorido, was killed during the clash. Her mother, Jocelyn, suffered injuries as well as two of the Polvorido children.

Manano said that Rafaela’s siblings now have recurring nightmares and uncontrollable crying fits. They have also ceased to interact with other people. The children have also grown weary of soldiers in the area, often crying at the sight of armed men.

Aside from the children directly involved in the incident, Manano added that many of the children residing in barangay Balanac have also suffered emotional and psychological trauma as a result of the latest encounter.

Based on the reports given by teachers in the barangay elementary school, 58% of the elementary students have stopped attending classes. Many of the children were witnesses to the clash and several saw the injured members of the Polvorido family being escorted away from the scene. The gun battle, which also took place in broad daylight, was heard by students in the nearby school.

Manano further added that despite the financial assistance offered by the AFP in similar cases throughout the Philippines, close relatives of civilian victims continue to suffer emotionally and mentally. She explained that one vital aspect of the healing process is the perception of justice by those involved. Manano said that victims need to see that the justice system works to ensure the resumption of the victims’ normal lives.