Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Dear President Arroyo:
We–members of the Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice composed of 26 organizations nationwide–respectfully demand that the Office of the President immediately stop the barbaric, systematic, organized, and wide scale crime being committed with impunity by officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) against 52,000 child prisoners.
These police officers–who are acting under the President’s control and supervisory authority–flout the law by locking up children with adult crime suspects in police stations and headquarters as a matter of standard operating procedure all over the country, save for Cebu City. This happens over extended periods and prior to their turnover to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology by virtue of court-issued commitment orders. Routinely locking up children, upon arrest, in filthy jails swarming with adult crime suspects constitutes cruelty, torture, and abuse. It subjects them to conditions inimical to their development.
This is punishable under Article VI, Section 10(a) of Republic Act 7610 or An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes. According to Article I, Section 3(b) of this law, child abuse covers “(p)sychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment.” Child abuse also embraces “(a)ny act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being.”
Through the chain of command, the police officers are wantonly committing this continuing crime under the President’s implicit, if not direct, orders.
The President controls and supervises the Secretary of Interior and Local Governments. The Interior Secretary, in turn, supervises and controls these PNP lawbreakers. In the final analysis, therefore, the President–by virtue of the principle of command responsibility–bears criminal responsibility for abetting and indirectly perpetrating, as well as perpetuating this institutionalized hooliganism.
For tacitly acquiescing, consenting, and authorizing, hence, being ultimately “responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development,” the President becomes liable for violating Article VI, Section 10(a) of RA 7610. For effectively abetting this widespread form of child torture, cruelty, and abuse–despite Your Excellency’s actual knowledge or being in a position to know about this prevalent crime against children of the poorest of the poor and Your Excellency’s positive duty to prevent and stop this monstrosity, as well as to punish violatorsï¿½the President, for being a “public officer,” could be slapped with a 12-year jail term under Article XII, Section 31(e) of RA 7610.
The President cannot evade criminal liability, by hiding under the mantle of sovereign immunity from suit, for egregious human rights violations such as this bizarre form of torture and crimes against humanity.
Atty. Perfecto Caparas
Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice