Children's rights group condemns Duterte's nationwide curfew plan
MANILA, Philippines – A children's rights organization on Friday, May 20, strongly condemned president-elect Rodrigo Duterte's plans to imprison parents of children found on the streets after curfew.
"We believe that this plan makes 'protection' punitive, poses unacceptable dangers to children, and is reactive, short-sighted and superficial," Bahay Tuluyan, an organization with 29 years of experience working with children in need of special protection, said in a statement.
The statement comes after Duterte announced his plans of imprisoning parents of minors caught roaming the streets from 10 pm to 5 am by themselves.
The group commended Duterte for upholding Republic Act 9344, which prohibits punishing children for status offenses, and saying that they will not be arrested but put in shelters.
But a study conducted by the group in 2008 suggests that government "rescue" – even through curfew and in the name of protection – are "indiscriminate, involuntary, harmful and ineffective" measures.
Bahay Tuluyan said that many children go to the streets looking for ways to support their families. These children, the group said, are in very difficult circumstances.
"Jailing parents for this will only cause severe trauma to children and deeply damage already-fragile families. Duterte’s proposal fundamentally undermines children’s rights not to be separated from their families and to use institutional shelter only as a last resort," the group said.
Unacceptable dangers for children increasing
Bahay Tuluyan cited the case of Frederico in 2014 as proof that taking a child from his/her family environment only increases his/her vulnerability to abuse.
"The appalling situation inside the Manila government-run Reception and Action Center gave a glimpse into the dismal state of services for children in Metro Manila and their complete lack of capacity to provide appropriate protection for children," the group said.
They added: "Consistently, children taken into government shelters do everything they can to escape, finding conditions violent and inhumane. For these children, the streets are safer." (READ: DSWD to shut down facility where Frederico was found)
The dangers for children rescued from the streets are increased because there are too many agencies given the authority to take children into custody, there is lack of training for government employees, and a lack of monitoring.
The group's study found out that 35% of children rescued said they were physically hurt in the name of protection and curfew. (READ: 'Frederico' found home)
"The recent election clearly gave Presumptive President-Elect Duterte a mandate to make the streets safer. This should mean safe for children as well," the group said.
The group maintained that Duterte's plan "criminalizes the poor for being poor" and is only addressing the symptoms of the problem.
"It fails to address the duty (of) the government to provide support to families in trouble, particularly single parents without strong support systems. It fails to fulfill the Philippines’ obligations to do everything it can to keep families together," Bahay Tuluyan said.
What families living below the poverty line need, the group said, are accessible child care services, adequate housing, and decent livelihoods.
"Removing children from our sight and imprisoning their parents is a superficial solution that will not resolve the underlying issues but just lead to further marginalization and vulnerability," the group said. (READ: Advocates to Duterte: Don't imprison parents of street kids)
"We hope to be able to work with the new Philippine government to continue building a nation where human dignity is sacrosanct and all human rights, children’s and adult’s, are respected, protected and fulfilled," Bahay Tuluyan concluded. – with a report from David Lozada/ Rappler.com