[Statement] Children’s Rights must be respected at all times even in containing the COVID-19 virus -CLRDC

The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC), an organization that promotes child protection and restorative justice, recognizes the threat posed by COVID-19 to nations around the world. The magnitude of the public health, economic, and social impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic led to the Philippine government’s proclamation of a state of a public health emergency.

While we acknowledge and support the efforts of the government to address this escalating crisis, we are also alarmed by the growing number of reports of abuses and violence allegedly committed against children in light of the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon. Children as a vulnerable sector, continue to be at risk, not only of this infectious disease but also of abuse, exploitation, and violence amid the global COVID-19 outbreak. For the past few days, CLRDC has received verified and monitored reports of children being arrested and detained for curfew violations, being threatened of physical harm including alleged threats of being shot, shaving of hair and shaming, and torture among others. This includes the detention of minors in a dog cage who violate curfew hours, and alleged placing of minors inside a coffin to deter curfew violations among others.

The said incidents are blatant violations of the Anti- Torture Act, and other child protection policies especially Republic Act No. 10630 known as the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System.

Let our duty bearers be reminded that under Republic Act No. 10630 no penalty shall be imposed upon minors who violate curfew ordinances and they shall be immediately released to the custody of their parents.

“Ordinances enacted by local governments concerning juvenile status offenses such as, but not limited to, curfew violations, truancy, parental disobedience, anti-smoking and anti-drinking laws, as well as light offenses and misdemeanors against public order or safety such as, but not limited to, disorderly conduct, public scandal, harassment, drunkenness, public intoxication, criminal nuisance, vandalism, gambling, mendicancy, littering, public urination, and trespassing, shall be for the protection of children. No penalty shall be imposed on children for said violations, and they shall instead be brought to their residence or to any barangay official at the barangay hall to be released to the custody of their parents.” (Republic Act No. 10630, Section 57-A)

Also, Section 5.2.10 of DILG Memo Circular No. 2020-062, which is the suppletory LGU guidelines on the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), prohibits the commission of human rights violations during the implementation of the ECQ.

We thus urge our government to remain faithful to the rule of law and ensure that fundamental rights remain in place despite the mounting pressure brought about by the ongoing health crisis. We urge our law enforcement officers and other persons in authority to respond to this crisis in a manner consistent with existing laws and protocols and to be guided by the principles of human rights especially when dealing with children. CLRDC remains committed to the protection and welfare of the children in this difficult time as we have done so in the past.

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