The curfew on minors in some cities have made the rounds over the news these past few weeks, some finding the ordinances agreeable and some undeniably doubtful about the repercussions and consequences of it. This week, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the ordinances, the first manifestation of due process after being gone for so long since Duterte won the presidential election.
Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan or SPARK declared that the curfew may be illegal, as per Republic Act 9344, also known as Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which allow the implementation of curfew as long as it stays for the protection of minors and children. Therefore, the group filed a petition to the Supreme Court to question its validity.
In the petition, SPARK noted the alleged illegal actions performed by the uniformed men. “The arbitrary application and enforcement of the curfew ordinances are inevitable given that law enforcers only conduct a visual inspection of alleged minors violating the curfew. The determination of the age of the alleged curfew violators will be subjective depending on the law enforcer’s assessment of a person’s face and body physique.”
Furthermore, SPARK states that the said curfew “suffers from overbreadth by impairing legitimate activities of minors during curfew hours; deprives minors of the right to liberty and the right to travel without substantive due process; and deprives parents of the natural and primary right in the rearing of the youth without substantive due process.”
In response, the SC put the juvenile curfew of these cities under Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
Children left more vulnerable since the Duterte administration
Way back in February, when President Rodrigo Duterte was still struggling in his campaign for the presidential position, he already expressed his plan to lower the age for criminal liability from 15 years old to 12 years old, mainly because the children are being exploited by organized criminal groups. His then Vice Presidential partner Senator Alan Peter Cayetano concurred to this, saying that juvenile who will be caught shall be put in separate rehabilitation centers.
On the other hand, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed House Bill 002, together with Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro. The bill wants to amend the Revised Penal Code and lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old, given the children’s wide knowledge of information through the technological advancements.
The bill also explains that apprehended criminals under 18 shall be exempt from appropriate proceedings under law, but shall be subjected to intervention programs. But it is up to them whether to go for the former or the latter.
It is alarming that the people in the seat of power and authority who are supposed to see the condition of the nation from the ground and from an all-seeing view are quick to punish the victims of a bigger and meaner problem.
The war on drugs and criminality may be the focus of the present administration, and some may counter that these children in question will ultimately be benefited by all the efforts of the government. While that argument holds true to some extent, the logical solution to the exploitation of children, however, is not to punish those children, most of whom are just following due to fear or stunted conscience, but to provide them with the right means and knowledge to counter negative influences and criminality themselves. (Luke Godoy)