Events that unfolded following President Arroyo’s unlawful arrogation of martial law powers unto herself show children as among the nameless and faceless casualties of this brutal assault upon civil liberties.
In an interview with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism following his arrest, UP Professor Randy David narrated that scores of children have been arrested and detained in the wake of the government’s crackdown on dissenters by virtue of Arroyo’s Proclamation 1017 (`My arrest was providential – Randy David; Feb. 26; http://www.pcij.org/blog/?p=653). David was among the first to be detained after Arroyo declared a state of emergency.
The children, according to David, were among the protestors who were arrested last February 24 by the police while en route to the EDSA Shrine to commemorate the anniversary of the February 1986 People Power Revolution. The number of those arrested and detained at Camp Karingal, initially numbering about 30, swelled to 85. They were mostly women and children, including a seven year old, from slum communities, such as Bagong Silang in Caloocan, according to the PCIJ report.
The child prisoners were deprived of food and herded to Camp Karingal’s firing range.
According to David: “Most were children from the slums who hadn’t eaten since the time they were brought in. Worse, the policemen were violating the rights of the children by having them fingerprinted, taken mugshots of, and charged like they were not aware that the minors are protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
The Coalition denounces Proclamation 1017 as an utter nullity for being constitutionally overbroad and by virtue of the void-for-vagueness rule. In violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Arroyo arbitrarily claimed for herself dictatorial powers to personally promulgate decrees, orders and regulations over an unlimited period and under unspecified conditions by virtue of Proclamation 1017.
No presidential authority justifies a brazen assault upon the children’s civil and political rights, especially on the occasion of the commemoration of the People Power Revolution that ended Marcos’ reign of terror.
As Justice O’Connor declared: “We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens.” (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld; 542 U.S. __ 2004). In his dissent, Justice Stevens remarked: “For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny.” (Rumsfeld v. Padilla; 542 U.S. __ 2004)
We strongly urge children’s human rights advocates to dismantle Proclamation 1017’s pangs of tyranny.