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Children’s rights group opposes Duterte’s curfew plans

Photo courtsey of Peopleschoice.com

At a recent press conference in Davao City, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte announced his plans to impose a national curfew for minors, which would entail having the parents arrested for minors breaking the curfew.

“The police should not arrest minors. They do not have the discernment of what they are doing out there. Arrest the parents instead,” Duterte said. The curfew will cover only unsupervised minors loitering the streets, or children unaccompanied by their parents or guardians between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. – a policy modeled after Davao City’s regulations. In a CNN report, Duterte said he would impose the curfew across the country in order to “protect the children.”

If this becomes a national policy, police authorities will be instructed to arrest parents for “abandonment of the minors and putting the life of the minors in jeopardy,” Duterte said in a Rappler report.

Meanwhile, minors would be taken into police custody or concerned government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD).

The proclamation was met with strong opposition from children’s rights group Bahay Tuluyan.

Discipline, not jail

Bahay Tuluyan, a children’s rights organization with 29 years of experience working with children in need of special protection released a statement after Duterte announced his curfew plans.

“Jailing parents for this will only cause 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.

“Penalizing parents won’t necessarily make them good parents,” said Education Undersecretary Alberto Muyot of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), a government body attached to and chaired by DSWD.

“The most important thing is for parents to know their responsibility. Perhaps it’s not right to imprison them right away. There should be warnings or sanctions first.” Muyot was quoted in a Rappler report.

Advocates added that these children are left wandering the streets at night since they do not have permanent homes, and insist that instead of imprisonment, there should be positive disciplining for parents.

Lawyer Marijoy Segui, executive director of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) said that training like the Family Development Sessions of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program should instead be imposed.

DSWD Undersecretary Vilma Cabrera echoed their concerns, saying that the lives of the minors would worsen if their parents were to be imprisoned.

Criminalizing poor for being poor

“We believe that this plan makes ‘protection’ punitive, poses unacceptable dangers to children, and is reactive, short-sighted and superficial,” Bahay Tuluyan said in a statement.

The group also pointed out that taking away children from their families increases the likelihood of abuse, particularly with the “appalling situation inside government-run facilities like Manila’s Reception and Action Center, which according to Bahay Tuluyan has “complete lack of capacity to provide appropriate protection for children.”

Bahay Tuluyan describes Duterte’s plan as a ruling that “criminalizes the poor for being poor” and insist that it’s only addressing the symptoms of the problem.

They suggested that instead of imprisonment of the parents, Duterte should provide accessible childcare services, adequate housing, and decent livelihood.

“Removing children from out sight and imprisoning their parents is a superficial solution that will not resolve the underlying issue but just lead to further marginalization and vulnerability,” the group said.

“We hope to be able to work with the new Philippine government to continue building a nation where the human dignity is a sacrosanct and all human rights, children’s and adults’, are respected, protected and fulfilled.”