In Zamboanga City, laundrywoman Maria (not her real name) leaves her two daughters under the care of her father-in-law; but she was surprised when the eldest suddenly became frail and her belly began to grow. With the kid being 9 years old, Maria thought the child was ‘possessed’.
“I didn’t know they were being sexually molested by my father-in-law then. I thought a bad spirit took over her body. She stopped going to school,” Maria said.
“I brought her to a friend who knew how to drive away spirits and there we discovered she was not possessed after all. She was pregnant.”
She filed a case against her father-in-law at the barangay but it was settled out of court. The old man did not go to jail. Meanwhile, the kid gave birth at 10 years old.
But Maria’s daughter isn’t the only 10-year-old kid to give birth in the city. In fact, local Population Commission (Popcom) officials sadly revealed that as many as 5 girls aged 10 to 14 are giving birth every day in Zamboanga Peninsula; one of these girls would be from Zamboanga City.
“It breaks our hearts to see young girls, playful and oblivious about their state,” said Zamboanga City Social Welfare Officer Maria Socorro Rojas.
Many of the cases are incest or rape; sadly, a lot also remain unreported. Thus, only a few perpetrators are jailed; many are also let off the hook, just like Maria’s father-in-law, because the victims no longer wish to pursue the case.
Precious (not her real name) is another 10-year-old girl who got pregnant due to incest. With the help of the city social welfare office, the suspect was jailed. Her child was put up for adoption through a government agency that caters to foreigners looking for babies to adopt.
Popcom executive director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III said that Popcom officials are getting alarmed at the high rate of teenage pregnancies, saying “a young girl giving birth was already a case of emergency.”
While five girls aged 10-14 give birth each day in the Zamboanga Peninsula, around 500 teenagers are giving birth across the country every day, Perez lamented.