Manila/Geneva, 9 April 2020 – Following numerous news articles and reports of arrests and severe abuse of children in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC), a human rights organisation in the Philippines that promotes child protection and restorative justice, urges the Government to strictly abide by the rule of law and protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
COVID-19 poses a multidimensional threat to nations around the world, thus fully justifying the Government’s decision to declare a state of public health emergency. However, CLRDC is alarmed by the growing number of directly verified reports of abuse and violence committed against children, who are a vulnerable group at all times, and even more so during a pandemic.
The CLRDC has directly monitored violations of children’s rights during the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon. While some children were arrested and detained for curfew violations, others were allegedly subjected to abuse such as shaving their hair, shaming, and threatening with physical harm including threats of being shot. In other incidents, several minors were detained in a dog cage and others were forced inside a coffin to deter them from further curfew violations.
These incidents constitute blatant violations of Section 3 (a) of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and other child protection policies, especially Republic Act No. 10630 known as the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System, as well the Philippines’ international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention against Torture.
The CLRDC reminds the authorities 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.
Amid the mounting pressure brought about by the ongoing health crisis, the CLRDC urges the Government of the Philippines to abide by the rule of law and to ensure that fundamental rights remain in place. It further exhorts law enforcement officers and other persons in positions of authority to respond to this crisis in a manner consistent with existing conventions, laws and protocols, and to be guided by the principles of human rights, especially when dealing with children.
The CLRDC remains committed to the protection and welfare of all children at this difficult time.
Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)