The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) calls for the lawful and humane treatment of minors violating quarantine protocols when disciplined by local officials and law enforcement officers.
With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, most of our cities and municipalities remain under General Community Quarantine and precautionary measures continue to be in full implementation. However, parallel to this are the frequent reports on abuses to minors involving local officials.
This matter greatly concerns the JJWC as the policy-making, coordinating, and monitoring body that is tasked with the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
Local officials are at the forefront in protecting the rights of the children in their respective communities. Hence, they are the authority that should set an example in abiding the law.
Children who violated the protocols should be accountable but this should be done in compliance with the law and child-sensitive approaches.
The local officials and law enforcement can take guidance from the following policies issued by the national government. It has declared that these shall be strictly implemented:
- Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-001 of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Council for the Welfare of Children or The Reiteration Of Protocols On Reaching Out To Children, Including Those In Street Situations, In Need Of Special Protection, Children At Risk (CAR), And Children In Conflict With The Law (CICL) During The Enhanced Community Quarantine; and
- The DILG Advisory on the Additional Guide in Handling Children Who Violate Curfew and Quarantine Rules. The additional guide states that there are steps on the first contact with the CAR who were found outside their homes or domiciles during the community quarantine.
Barangay officials and law enforcement officers shall adhere to the following guidance:
- Explain to the child in simple language why he/she is being brought to the barangay;
- Refrain from using vulgar or profane words and from sexually harassing or abusing or making sexual advances on the child found during curfew;
- Avoid displaying or using any firearm, weapon, handcuffs, or other instruments of force or restraint, unless absolutely necessary and only after all other methods of control have been exhausted but to no avail; and
- Avoid violence or unnecessary force.
Violence against children is unacceptable especially in the context of discipline and accountability. Intervention programs should be implemented by the local government units as stated in the guidance. Interventions can take the form of asking children to write or declare an apology; continuous monitoring on the child of responsible barangay officials; online counselling for CICL and the child’s family; attendance in webinars or online lectures; and volunteering in community service.
The JJWC urges everyone to work together in ensuring the rights and welfare of the children are protected. ###