For jailing children with adult crime suspects, Philippine President, top police and Cabinet officials criminally liable for torture and crimes against humanity sign now


By Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice

Crime Against Humanity

The institutionalized practice of jailing children with adult crime suspects and subjecting not a few of them to rape, torture, tattooing and other indignities constitutes a crime against humanity. This state-sponsored brutality committed against children of the poorest of the poorвthat constitutes not only a cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and punishment but a form of unlawful discrimination and torture as wellвis universally condemned by humankind.

It is inherently unconscionable and stings humanityвs conscience.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Childвthat has been ratified by virtually all nations and came into force on September 2, 1990вcriminalizes the jailing of children with adults. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the Philippines ratified on October 23, 1986 also outlaws this barbarism committed everyday against at least 36 children, based on statistics of the Philippine Public Attorneyвs Office who handled 13,300 cases involving children accused of crime in 2002. This soared to 20,000 children in conflict with the law in 2003, based on statistics from the office of Senator Francis Pangilinan. In 2004, however, the number of children in conflict with the law leapfrogged to 52,000 all over the country.

Seventy-four to 77 percent of police child prisoners come from the poorest of the poor, based on 2000-2002 statistics of the Social Services Development Department of the Quezon City Government, which reflects in a microcosmic way the children's overall situation. They include prostituted girls, beggars, children with mental disabilities, scavengers, and street urchins who suffer from arrest without any judicial warrant and detained in police jails without access to medical, social, psychological, and legal assistance and services.

Jailing children with adult crime suspects on a wide scale, and in an organized and systematic manner, is outlawed under customary international law as a serious affront to childrenвs inherent dignity and human rights.

President Arroyoвs Culpability

President Arroyo cannot claim sovereign immunity from suit for allowing this crime against humanity to be ruthlessly perpetrated by the officers and members of the Philippine National Police who are under her own control and supervision as their Commander in Chief.

President Arroyo knows and/or is in a position to know that the jailing of children together with adult crime suspects is perpetrated by the police on a national level and carried out systematically and in an organized manner.

She had held the position of secretary of Department of Social Welfare and Development in her concurrent capacity as the former Vice President and had been at the helm of rounding up operations against street children, whoвdue to their own experiences of abuse, deprivation, and neglectвroutinely get arrested and jailed mostly for alleged property-related crimes.

In January 2003, President Arroyo personally received a petition from Fr. Anthony J. Ranada, SVD, calling for a decisive action on her part to stop the jailing of children with adult prisoners. At her own instance, Secretary Silvestre Afable of the Presidential Management Staff referred the matter to the DSWD.

In its response on April 1, 2003, DSWD however simply harped on the 2002 Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law and mentioned nothing at all about stopping the jailing of children with adult inmates that is actually the bone of contention in the said petition personally given to the President.

In short, the Presidentвin spite of her knowledge and awareness about the magnitude and scale with which this crime is being perpetratedвignored and did nothing tangible to curb this serious human rights violation carried out against our own children by PNP officers and personnel who are under her authority.

The Presidentвs alter egoвInterior and Local Government Secretary and National Police Commission chairman Jose Linaвalso failed and refused to stop the illegal practice being routinely carried out by PNP officers and members in spite of the filing of a mass petition to stop the ghastly phenomenon last March 25 before his office.

In fairness, the NAPOLCOMвin reaction to another petition spearheaded by Fr. Ranada asking the DILG and NAPOLCOM to stop the jailing of children with adultsвrecommended the вmonitoring of compliance of police officers with the prescribed rulesв including the provision of cells for children-accused separate from adult offendersв and the dissemination of the 2002 Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law among PNP personnel.

The problemвhoweverвpersists, as President Arroyo and Secretary Lina optedвby refusing and failing to decisively stop this crime against humanity right awayвto perpetuate the jailing of children with adult crime suspects as the de facto state practice in contravention of the Philippinesв treaty obligation, the 1987 Constitution, the Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603), the Family Courts Act of 1997 (RA 8369), the 2002 Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law, the Special Child Protection Act (RA 7610), and the Rules and Regulations on the Apprehension, Investigation, Prosecution and Rehabilitation of Youth Offenders (1995).

To top it all, the Philippine government concealed this widespread, systematic, and organized state-sponsored practice of illegally jailing kids with adult prisoners and their torture, rape, and dehumanization during police custody when it submitted its second country report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. This body monitors state compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

All this shows President Arroyoвs willful negligence and/or refusal to take decisive steps to stop this egregious human rights violation committed by the police with impunity against the children of the poorest of the poor in spite of her duty to respect, protect, and fulfill the childrenвs human rights and to uphold the rule of law.

License to violate childrenвs dignity and human rights?

The governmentвs justification for carrying out this inhumanity on a large scaleвlack of adequate facilitiesвdoes not hold water.

The state obligation to respect the human rights of Filipino childrenвbased on the holdings of the Maastricht Guidelines and Limburg Principles that lay down contemporary standards on international human rights lawвonly imposes upon the state the duty to refrain and to desist from committing acts that violate the children prisonersв inviolable dignity and human rights.

The state duty to respect, protect, and fulfill the peopleвs human rightsвas spelled out in the Maastricht Guidelines and Limburg Principlesвapplies to civil and political rights as well owing to the indivisible, interdependent, symbiotic, and intertwining nature and character of humansв civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

Pursuant to the stateвs international human rights obligation, therefore, all that President Arroyoвin her capacity as the Chief Executive, who took her oath to faithfully execute all laws and do justice to every man, woman, and childвis to order PNP chief General Hermogenes Ebdaneвthrough her own alter egoвSecretary Linaвto cease and desist altogether permanently from further jailing children with adult crime suspects in cramped police jails nationwide.

President Arroyo also has the obligation to order the investigation and prosecution of all police officers and members whoвunafraid of any legal consequences for their own culpability due to the political powerlessness and economic marginalization of children of the poorвroutinely trample upon their dignity and human rights.

Thisвin essenceвconstitutes the stateвs obligation to respect the children prisonersв dignity and human rights, to refrain from further committing this insidious form of human rights violation that fosters criminality and anti-social behavior among the young.

President Arroyoвpursuant to her human rights accountability to our children based on the international human rights frameworkвshould stop the further perpetration of this crime against humanity right away in her capacity as the Chief Executive and as the Commander in Chief; not by merely creating committees or announcing official investigations for public consumption but by ensuringвthrough the vast state machinery available at her own disposalвthat henceforth, no single child shall ever be detained, violated, and dehumanized again in police jails with adult crime suspects.

Just like former Chilean dictator Augusto PinochetвPresident Arroyo can be sued and tried anywhere in the world for perpetuatingвby condoningвthis crime against humanity by virtue of the principle of command responsibility.

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Barry GoodwinBy:
Nature and EnvironmentIn:
Petition target:
President of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Governments, and Department of Justice


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