MANILA - Penitents flogging their backs until they turn red with blood is a common sight in Barangay San Pedro, Cutud in San Fernando, Pampanga every Holy Week. This custom is said to be a way of sharing in Christ’s sufferings to atone for one’s sins. But when the image is that of a 4-year old child participating in this ritual, netizens express concern, even outrage.
Several Bayan Patrollers shared with ABS-CBN News the photo of a little boy whose face was shrouded and whose back was covered in what appears to be blood during Good Friday rituals in Cutud.
There's also a video which shows the boy lying flat on the ground, face down, as he appears to be flagellated by an adult. Next to the boy is an adult penitent also being apparently whipped on what appears to be his bloody backside.
Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo (BMPM) forwarded the video to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Region 3 office.
Information officer Evelyn Manalo told BMPM that the father of the child said he was not aware that his son joined the penitents. He said the mother of the boy was at work at that time.
The DSWD also spoke with the boy who said no one ordered him to join the ritual and that he was only playing.
Authorities examined the back of the child and saw no scars or bruises. The DSWD said the reddish color smeared on the boy’s back was allegedly the blood of other adult penitents.
DSWD-Region 3 Director Adelina Aposto told BMPM that even if the child did not sustain wounds, it was not right for the adults to have included the boy in that practice.
Aposto added, they are still investigating the matter further for possible violation of Republic Act 7610 (An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination). The parents of the child will undergo counseling.
Barangay captain Zoilo Castro said that they will hold a meeting to draft a resolution that will ban children from joining the bloody ritual.
Msgr. Eugenio Reyes, for his part, told BMPM that the sense of devotion in this Lenten practice is lost when children are included in the practice.