Kristel’s death is a wake-up callEven as there are some people who want to fan the outrage over the death of 16-year old Kristel Tejada, a freshman student at The University of the Philippines, Manila, the UP leadership promises to “take the necessary steps to address the policy and administrative issues that are related to this unfortunate tragedy. “
Tejada was found dead in her residence in Sampaloc after taking cyanide nitrate.
The mother said her daughter was depressed because she could not continue her studies at UP where she was taking up Behavioral Science for their failure to pay the needed tuition fee.
The daughter of a taxi driver, Kristel has four other siblings.
In a statement, UP President Alfredo Pascual said, “It is unfortunate that this tragedy happened a day after I instructed the Chancellors of all UP units at our council meeting held last Thursday that we should not deny access to qualified students who cannot enroll because of financial constraints.”
Pascual said he has been pushing for reforms in the UP system to simplify the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) application process and increase the financial aid for poor students are already planned for Board of Regents action next month.
“But, “ he said “it takes time to implement change. We can easily be overtaken, as we have been, by a sudden turn of events. But I am confident we can turn the tragedy into a greater resolve to act and make UP accessible to the poor.”
The Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education Patricia B. Licuanan sympathized with the Tejada family for “losing someone so young and promising.”
“But,” she said, “ I believe that suicide is always complex and must be approached with great sensitivity. Simplistic speculation on cause does not help anyone. And using Kristel’s apparent suicide to serve a political platform, no matter how valid is unconscionable.”
Amidst the intense emotions generated by Kristel’s death, many share Licuanan’s view of the risk of “simplistic speculation.”
There are many other young people like Kristel, who want to study but are hindered by lack of money. A deplorable situation.
It can also be said that there are others who are in a far worse situation, something more deplorable.
But the point is, committing suicide is a complex problem and it’s sound call not to simplify the cause of Kristel’s death.
The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group, has a special take on Kristel’s death.
Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition reminded Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona and Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje that the chemical that caused Kristel’s death – cyanide and its compounds- are among the 48 substances in the Philippine Priority Chemicals List, that are highly toxic to people and marine life even at low concentrations and included in the Joint DOH-DENR Advisory, Series of 2010-0001.
The group said the advisory further bans the importation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of silver cleaners without product registration and labeling.
Yet, Calonzo said, the cyanide-laced silver cleaning agents are sold from as low as P10 to P150 in sidewalks and silver stores in shopping malls.
The EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the authorities to conduct a random inspection of silver jewelry shops in major commercial hubs and shopping malls and decisively apprehend and charge violators of the ban. “Government regulators should reach out to the management of shopping malls and entice them to help in policing silver jewelry shops doing business in their premises,” the group said.
The group warned that exposure to cyanide through eye or skin contact, inhalation and ingestion can cause irritation, rash, bluish skin color, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, nausea, headache, blindness, suffocation, lung congestion, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death, as what happened to Kristel.
Calonzo said, Kristel’s death is a “wake-up call” for DOH and DENR to effectively implement the regulation.
The wake-up call should be sounded out to everybody including politicians who divert money needed for education to their pockets.