The Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice debunks claims by President Arroyo that children no longer suffer from imprisonment with adult crime suspects in filthy police jails in violation of international human rights law (PGMA wants youth offenders to continue studies, engage in livelihood, Office of the President, released May 7, 2007). The President should officially acknowledge the existence of these ghost children prisoners who lurk in the shadows of police dungeons especially in Metro Manila and major urban centers, without official acknowledgment, transparency and accountability.

Contrary to Arroyo’s misleading claims, the establishment of CRADLE and the passage of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, while laudable to some extent, never eliminated a whit the phenomenon of children of the poorest of the poor suffering from human rights violations in the hands of the police. These children languish in police headquarters, stations, and substations under the sole and exclusive authority of the Philippine National Police pending inquest proceedings undertaken by the Department of Justice and while awaiting court-issued commitment orders. They are separate and distinct from children previously confined under Bureau of Jail Management and Penology custody in city and municipal jails. Until now, the government has yet to officially acknowledge and stop this egregious practice of police child detention and torture, notwithstanding protests aired by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Human Rights Committee against this inhumanity.

Truth is, as a matter of state norm and practice, the PNP criminally persists in hauling off children to police jails all over the country, save for Cebu City. This brazen violation of the Special Child Protection Act [RA 7610 Article VI(10)(a)], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [Article 10(2)(b)], and the Convention on the Rights of the Child [Article 37(c)] occurs due to the President’s criminal neglect, if not tacit approval and acquiescence. For her refusal and failure to stop this barbarity, the President is ultimately liable for this monstrosity on account of the principle of command responsibility.

Notwithstanding CRADLE and RA 9344, the BJMP and the Department of Social Welfare and Development routinely refuse to assume custody over children accused of violating the law (CAVL) unless police officers produce commitment orders issued by the courts. BJMP and DSWD have long been justifying this anti-child practice of admitting to their custody only children with court-issued commitment orders by citing their own manual of internal policies and procedures, ignoring the legally binding Special Child Protection Act (RA 7610) and the country’s treaty obligations. Such BJMP, DSWD, and PNP practice, however, conspire in condemning children to perpetually suffer from abuses, e.g., tattooing, torture, and sexual abuse, in the hands of the police and adult crime suspects during police detention. Never mind if it takes eons of time for the commitment order to be delivered to DSWD and/or BJMP. This tedious process begins with police paperwork that undergoes evaluation by the prosecutors, and eventually winds up in snail-paced and backlog-ridden courts, then back again to the police, at the expense of children traumatized and brutalized during police incarceration in the interim.

Even children under the care of CRADLE had been hapless victims of police imprisonment in the company of adult crime suspects under subhuman conditions prior to their transfer to CRADLE at the behest of family court judges. More children will continue to suffer from this institutionalized violence unless the President observes in good faith the letter and spirit of the law by requiring DSWD and BJMP to assume custody over CAVL even without court orders.

The Coalition, composed of at least 25 organizations, renews its call for President Arroyo to abrogate the DSWD and BJMP anti-child requirement for the police to produce court-issued commitment orders as a condition to admitting CAVL into their custody. Rather, police officers should be allowed to immediately turn over, at the precise point of arrest, to CRADLE and other DSWD and/or BJMP facilities all children accused of violating the law without further need of court-issued commitment orders that proves prejudicial to their best interests. This way, the long-standing practice of police child detention and its concomitant evils would be cast into oblivion.

The Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice debunks claims by President Arroyo that children no longer suffer imprisonment with adult crime suspects in filthy police jails in violation of international human rights law (PGMA wants youth offenders to continue studies, engage in livelihood, Office of the President, released May 7, 2007). The President should officially acknowledge the existence of these ghost children prisoners who lurk in the shadows of police dungeons especially in Metro Manila and major urban centers, without official acknowledgment, transparency and accountability.

Contrary to Arroyo’s misleading claims, the establishment of CRADLE and the passage of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, while laudable to some extent, never eliminated a wit the phenomenon of children of the poorest of the poor suffering human rights violations in the hands of the police. These children languish in police headquarters, stations, and substations under the sole and exclusive authority of the Philippine National Police pending inquest proceedings undertaken by the Department of Justice and while awaiting court-issued commitment orders. They are separate and distinct from children previously confined under Bureau of Jail Management and Penology custody in city and municipal jails. Until now, the government has yet to officially acknowledge and stop this egregious practice of police child detention and torture, notwithstanding protests aired by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Human Rights Committee against this inhumanity.

Truth is, as a matter of state norm and practice, the PNP criminally persists in hauling off children to police jails all over the country, save for Cebu City. This brazen violation of the Special Child Protection Act [RA 7610 Article VI(10)(a)], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [Article 10(2)(b)], and the Convention on the Rights of the Child [Article 37(c)] occurs with the President’s criminal neglect, if not tacit approval and acquiescence. For her refusal and failure to stop this barbarity, the President is ultimately liable for this monstrosity on account of the principle of command responsibility.

Notwithstanding CRADLE and RA 9344, the BJMP and the Department of Social Welfare and Development routinely refuse to assume custody over children accused of violating the law (CAVL) unless police officers produce commitment orders issued by the courts. BJMP and DSWD have long been justifying this anti-child practice of admitting to their custody only children with court-issued commitment orders by citing their own manual of internal policies and procedures, ignoring the legally binding Special Child Protection Act (RA 7610) and the country’s treaty obligations. Such BJMP, DSWD, and PNP practice, however, conspire in condemning children to perpetually suffer abuses, e.g., tattooing, torture, and sexual abuse, in the hands of the police and adult crime suspects during police detention. Never mind if it takes eons of time for the commitment order to be delivered to DSWD and/or BJMP. This tedious process begins with police paperwork that goes through evaluation by the prosecutors, and eventually winds up in snail-paced and backlog-ridden courts, then back again to the police, at the expense of children traumatized and brutalized during police incarceration in the interim.

Even children under the care of CRADLE had been hapless victims of police imprisonment in the company of adult crime suspects under subhuman conditions prior to their transfer to CRADLE at the behest of family court judges. More children will continue to suffer from this institutionalized violence unless the President observes in good faith the letter and spirit of the law by requiring DSWD and BJMP to assume custody over CAVL even without court orders.

The Coalition, composed of at least 25 organizations, renews its call for President Arroyo to abrogate the DSWD and BJMP anti-child requirement for the police to produce court-issued commitment orders as a condition to admitting CAVL into their custody. Rather, police officers should be allowed to immediately turn over, at the precise point of arrest, to CRADLE and other DSWD and/or BJMP facilities all children accused of violating the law without further need of court-issued commitment orders that proves prejudicial to their best interests. This way, the long-standing practice of police child detention and its concomitant evils would be cast into oblivion.

Atty. Perfecto Caparas
Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice

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