Groups Want Justice Served for Slain Youth Recycler, Launch Campaign for “Respect and Justice”

(Photos by Manny Calonzo)

Environmental groups urged the authorities to ensure justice for 13-year old youth recycler Christian D. Serrano who was reportedly killed by a police officer last Monday, May 9, in Makati City.

In a bid to honor Serrano who will be brought to his final resting place today, May 15, the EcoWaste Coalition and other green groups are launching a campaign dubbed as “Project Respect and Justice” (PRJ) to prevent all forms of harassment and brutality against informal recyclers.

Serrano of Barangay Santa Cruz, Makati City was fatally shot while reclaiming scrap metal from an abandoned building located at the corner of Bagtikan and Kamagong Streets.

Serrano, fourth in a brood of seven, was allegedly shot by Chief Inspector Angelo Germinal, Station Commander of Police Community Precinct 5 and his two other police companions PO1 Nicolas Apostol, Jr. and PO3 Robert Riñon.

Parents Armando and Salvacion on Saturday told the EcoWaste Coalition that Christian and his three other teen friends went to the building to collect recyclables, but were supposedly driven away and then shot by the police officers.

“We condemn the killing and join the Serranos in their cry for justice. We hope that this terrible incident that took a young man’s life would not befall any family again,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our ‘Project Respect and Justice’ hopes to create a compassionate awareness about the plight of the informal recyclers, particularly the waste pickers, who have to endure harassment, intimidation and even death in the course of their work on top of the occupational health risks and social stigma they have to come to grips with,” said Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

PRJ will promote society’s recognition of the essential role being played by the informal waste sector in climate mitigation and environmental conservation and protection, and will seek their inclusion and participation in formal waste management systems, the groups said.

It will help in monitoring human rights violations committed against informal recyclers and will assist victims obtain redress and justice by connecting them with responsible agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights.

Citing information from the “National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Waste Management,” the groups said that middlemen, police authorities and politicians frequently exploit informal recyclers due to their lack of formal education.

“Scavenging is regarded as the lowest kind of work and (waste reclaimers) are often portrayed as criminal elements. Thus, they are prone to harassment and encounter difficulties in getting access to gated communities or commercial establishments because of their informal status,” the report said.

Another report, the “Respect for Recyclers: Protecting the Climate through Zero Waste” published by GAIA, stated that “most local authorities do not value the contribution of waste pickers to the environment and to municipal services, and do not officially recognize or engage with waste picker organizations.”

According to GAIA, “local and national governments should recognize the informal recycling sector’s contribution to climate change mitigation, and adopt inclusive and comprehensive planning processes that give waste pickers a voice and a vote at every stage of policy and project design.”