Philippine Forces Challenge Children to be ‘Heroes’
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines, Feb. 25, 2010 Philippine national police here are working to forge a better future by teaching young people what it means to be a “hero” in their community.
A student at Francisco L.L. Laya Memorial School in Iligan City, Philippines, listens to a lecture from national police during an Operation Junior Heroes program, Feb. 23, 2010, at her school. The program is conducted by the Philippine national police to promote good citizenship. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Operation Junior Hero began a little more than six months ago here in the southern Philippines. Police teach grade-schoolers about their legal rights as children in the Philippines and to be drug free. Children also learn about the dangers of terrorism and improvised explosive devices in their neighborhoods.
But above all, the police stress the importance of leading honest lives for the good of the nation.
“Children are the future of our country, and they can be heroes by being good citizens, good students in school and good members of their families,” Police Capt. Ramil Lluisma, said Feb. 23 during a program at Francisco L.L. Laya Memorial School here. “Someday they will become adults, and we want them to be good citizens for our country.”
Among the many challenges that trouble the Philippines, especially in the southern provinces, are violence, drug trafficking, terrorist safe havens and, in some areas, complete lawlessness, Lluisma explained.
And although Philippine security forces focus much effort on reducing those problems, it’s important for the children to understand the issues as well. The program’s hope is that empowering the youth through knowledge and education will help them become respectable citizens in their adult lives and prevent them from falling into corruption and criminal conduct, he said.
The program is based around a series of lectures, which include anti-drug talks and information about child abuse. Although sitting through lectures may seem dull to most children, the students Lluisma speaks to always seem to respond well, he said, perhaps because they also receive comic books, crayons, coloring books, T-shirts and Operation Junior Hero bracelets.
But before the children can take their new goodies and play, the police lecturer explains the contents of the comic and coloring books. The coloring book is a story about a boy who loses one of his legs to a roadside bomb, and the comic book depicts a super hero who fights terrorism and practices being a good citizen of the Philippines.
The highlight of the program is giving the children the novelties, Lluisma said. “They love to learn,” he added, “and they want to make our country better.”
The novelties also are meant to inspire the children to report wrongdoings they may see in their community, Lluisma explained. Children who do report criminal activities or roadside bombs, he said, are recognized for their support.
The program ends with the children taking a sworn oath of good citizenship. They raise their right hands and pledge to be drug-free, to report criminal activities and to try their best in school. More than 10 schools have participated in the program so far, with 150 to 300 children taking the oath.
“With this program, we want to give the children the moral values, the knowledge to be junior heroes,” he said. “Be a law-abiding citizen who stays away from drugs, makes good in school and does not associate with terrorists, and to be a professional someday. That’s what we want from these kids.”
U.S. forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines and Philippine soldiers also attend the Operation Junior Hero events. The troops help to create the novelties and assist in the program's development. U.S. soldiers often speak to the children as well to show their gratitude for Philippine security forces.