One evening about a year ago, shortly after I arrived in Cebu, I was walking on Mango Avenue past the ‘bikini bars’ of Mango Square. There were, as usual, a number of hookers (some female, some not) in the parking lots and sidewalks in front of the bars. One of the ladyboys said something along the lines of “Don’t go there” as I passed. I thought it was a proposition, so I continued on.
About fifty meters or so further, I was approached by a group of four or five girls about ten or so years old. I paid them no mind until they were next to me, at which point they all began grabbing at me.
I was, as you might expect, taken by surprise and not at all certain what in the hell was going on. I probably should have decked a couple of them, but we are inculturated that adult males don’t punch out little girls (and I’m not sure what the legal consequences might have been). What was happening, as you may have guessed, is that a couple of them were trying to get into my pockets as the others kept me occupied. I managed to twist away and get out into the street – luckily there was a break in the usual heavy traffic on Mango. The girls laughed and ran off.
I was reminded of this incident by this news report of a Korean who was robbed in the same area by five boys, said to be twelve years old.
Police Officer 2 Cliffton Manogura said several children engage in snatching, relying on the fact that authorities will not arrest them for being minors.
This is in line with what I was told when, after The Attack of the Ten Year Old Girls, I wandered back toward the clubs, where the ladyboy, who had apparently been watching, said, “I tried to warn you.” I acknowledged that fact and thanked her, and she volunteered the information that young kids frequently attack pedestrians in that area (especially foreigners, who are presumed to have lots of cash on them), because they know they won’t be arrested.
Under Philippine law, it turns out, minors who commit crimes are supposed to be (as in most countries) dealt with by juvenile courts if they are over fifteen. I’m not sure how that works out.
But, if they are under fifteen then they are generally just returned to their parents, if the parents can be found. But quite often, if there are parents, then the parents are the ones who sent the kids out to steal. So the reality of the situation is that any kids who are caught are quickly released (and few are caught because the police make little effort to do so, recognizing the futility).