Thursday, May 19, 2016

Duterte must be careful in dealing with minors as part of his campaign against crime.

Duterte states that he wants to apply nationwide his Davao City ordinance on curfew against unaccompanied children after 10:00 PM and on alcohol ban after 2:00 AM. 

He threatens he will imprison the parents of the minors arrested for violation of the curfew ordinance. 

What does the law say on curfew for minors? 

Article 139 (“Curfew Hours for Children “) of P.D. No.603 (c. 1974) or the CHILD AND YOUTH WELFARE CODE provides that: 

(1) City or municipal councils “may prescribe such curfew hours for children” as may be warranted by “local conditions.” 

(2) The “duty to enforce” curfew ordinances shall devolve upon the “parents or guardians and the local authorities”. 

(3) Any “parent or guardian” found “grossly negligent” in the performance of the duty imposed by this article shall be “admonished” by the “Department of Social Welfare or the Council for the Protection of Children”. 

We should also read R.A. 9344, “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” because it is relevant and instructive. 

Discussed below are some of its major provisions that protect minors from prosecution and other discriminatory acts. 

“Status offenses” discriminate against minors. 

RA 9344 defines "status offenses" as referring to offenses which “discriminate only against a child, while an adult does not suffer any penalty for committing similar acts”. These shall include “curfew violations; truancy, parental disobedience and the like”. (Sec. 4, Par. [r], R.A. 9344, “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006”). 

Sec. 57 (status offenses) of R.A. 9344 provides that any conduct not considered an offense or not penalized if committed by an adult “shall not be considered an offense and shall not be punished if committed by a child”. 

Minors are exempt from prosecution in instances stipulated by RA 9344. 

Sec. 58 (offenses not applicable to children) of R.A. 9344 provides that persons “below eighteen (18) years of age” shall be “exempt” from prosecution for the crime of “vagrancy and prostitution” under Section 202 of the Revised Penal Code, of “mendicancy” under Presidential Decree No. 1563, and “sniffing of rugby” under Presidential Decree No. 1619, such prosecution being inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, provided, that said minors shall “undergo appropriate counseling and treatment program.” 

Minors are protected by RA 9344 from labeling and shaming. 

Sec. 60 (prohibition against labeling and shaming) of RA 9344 provides that in the conduct of the proceedings beginning from the initial contact with the child, the competent authorities must refrain from “branding or labeling” children as young criminals, juvenile delinquents, prostitutes or attaching to them in any manner any other “derogatory names”. Likewise, no “discriminatory remarks and practices” shall be allowed particularly with respect to the child's “class or ethnic origin”. 

The “Walk of Shame” applied by the mayor of Tanauan, Batangas is a crime under R.A. 9344. 

Other prohibited acts that are prejudicial and detrimental to minors are enumerated below. 

Sec. 61 (other prohibited acts) of RA 9344 provides that the following and any other similar acts shall be considered prejudicial and detrimental to the psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, moral and physical health and well-being of the child in conflict with the law and therefore, prohibited: 

(a) Employment of threats of whatever kind and nature; 

(b) Employment of abusive, coercive and punitive measures such as cursing, beating, stripping, and solitary confinement; 

(c) Employment of degrading, inhuman end cruel forms of punishment such as shaving the heads, pouring irritating, corrosive or harmful substances over the body of the child in conflict with the law, or forcing him/her to walk around the community wearing signs which embarrass, humiliate, and degrade his/her personality and dignity; and 

(d) Compelling the child to perform involuntary servitude in any and all forms under any and all instances. 

We must be aware of the penal clause of RA 9344. 

Sec. 62 (violation of the provisions of RA 9344) provides that any person who violates any provision of this Act or any rule or regulation promulgated in accordance thereof shall, upon conviction for each act or omission, be punished by “a fine of not less than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) but not more than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) or suffer imprisonment of not less than eight (8) years but not more than ten (10) years, or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court”, unless a higher penalty is provided for in the Revised Penal Code or special laws. If the offender is a public officer or employee, he/she shall, in addition to such fine and/or imprisonment, be held administratively liable and shall suffer the penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification. 

Duterte must be careful in dealing with minors as part of his campaign against crime.