By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A group promoting children’s rights and welfare urged the police and local government officials to “stop all cruel, and humiliating punishments against children and youth” who are allegedly found violating quarantine measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Children and youth who are accused or guilty of breaking the quarantine rules must be treated with dignity and respect, and should be turned over to parents and guardians and not detention centers,” said Save the Children Philippines (SCP) Chief Executive Officer Atty. Alberto Muyot.
Muyot, a former Undersecretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) and a child protection specialist, said children’s rights on protection against all forms of violence must be “promoted and respected at all times,” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and in emergencies.
The SCP raised concerns on the new cases of the cruel and degrading treatment of children who violated quarantine rules. It cited that in old Balara in Quezon City, a police officer was reported to have repeatedly hit a 13-year old boy with a police baton causing injury on his back.
“The boy was allegedly asked by his mother to buy items for cooking from a ‘sari-sari’ or neighborhood store,” SCP said.
In a separate incident, the SCP also reported that three teenagers were arrested by the police in Liliw, Laguna, south of capital Manila, after they were caught picking mangoes.
“In a video, the police officer asked the three teenagers to reenact their action in picking up mangoes,” SCP noted.
SCP reiterated that police and barangay enforcers must to adhere to the Joint Memorandum Circular signed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Council for the Welfare of Children on protocols in handling children and youth who are caught violating rules on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Curfew rules and local ordinances are issued to protect children based on Republic Act 10630, amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, thus, there should be no penalty on children violating the said rules.
“Instead, children should be brought to their residence, released to their parents and guardians and provided with appropriate interventions,” Muyot said.
Muyot also added that the said Joint Circular directed officials implementing ECQ rules to “observe strict guidelines for reaching out to children in street situations avoiding harm or risk against children, including physical, mental or psychological in nature.”