Sagop Bata Quick Action Team Always on the Go in Saving Children-at-Risk
Words By Roy Banias
WHEN THE CLOCK hits ten in the evening, the center of Tagum City is enveloped with a blaring sound, so loud that it reaches the outskirts, to remind the young people, especially the minors, who are enjoying the urban nightlife that it’s time to go home. At the same instant, one team embarks on a mission of roaming the hushed streets of the city to save children and youngsters who are still not beneath the security of their roofs and are exposed to dangers they least expect.
The group is called Sagop Bata Quick Action Team (SBQAT), an interagency task force formed by Mayor Allan L. Rellon through an executive order which is responsible in ensuring that no children and youth in Tagum City are to become victims of risks caused by the absence of parental guardianship and other prejudicial conditions.
The SBQAT is comprised of select personnel from the City Social Welfare and Development Office, Philippine National Police, Security Management Office, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and other local agencies.
The ten-o’clock siren is their signal to patrol the sleeping streets of Tagum and confirm that the set curfew period, which ends in 4 a.m, is properly observed by the minors.
“But we don’t just focus there,” said Geraldo Marfe, SBQAT’s team leader. “In protecting the welfare of our children, the curfew hours are not just the period that we take action.”
He emphasized that day in, day out the group is always on the go in rescuing children who are at risk and keeping them at their best wellbeing as pursuant to the City Ordinance no. 383, otherwise known as the ‘Comprehensive Welfare Code for the Children of City of Tagum’ that was passed in 2009.
From July to December in 2016, the team rescued 381 children, 219 of whom belong to the 11-15 years old age bracket. Records also show that more than half of the rescued children are Out-of-school Youth.
Curfew defiance, having 306 violations, is the highest among all categories reasoned for rescue followed by theft with 18, public disturbance with 14 and the snuffling of vulcaseal with 13 children committing.
According to Mr. Marfe, who also acts as the focal person for street children of the CSWD Office, the primary reasons why children are wandering in the streets during the night and sometimes perpetrating delinquent acts include dysfunctional families, peer influence, internet addiction, and culture and environment disorientation.
Currently, the SBQAT has two stations where they hold the rescued children and give them proper shelter for the moment — one at the PNP Substation in Brgy. Magugpo South and the other at Brgy. La Filipina.
After making certain that the children are properly clothed and fed, members of SBQAT will conduct a one-on-one counseling with them to encourage their digression from delinquency. When the day comes, the team will personally deliver the children to their homes and will also give their parents proper counseling.
One project seen to boost the operation of SBQAT is the million-peso Children’s Center being constructed at Brgy. Magdum. This project is funded through the collaboration of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the City Government of Tagum.
The project will cater more rescued children thereby enlarging the ripples of benefits brought by the social welfare intervention of SBQAT. This will also bolster Tagum’s continuous pursuit as a child-friendly city, hallmarked by the Seal of Child-Friendly Local Governance conferred by the Council for Welfare of Children (CWC) last 2016.
Through these efforts and programs, Tagum City will soon have streets that are illuminated not just with the thousand rays of lampposts but also with the bright future awaiting the children far from risks.