Mayo 11, 2007

'Ghost' child prisoners languish in RP jails

05/08/2007 | 09:54 AM

Many Filipino child offenders are still imprisoned together with adult crime suspects in dirty police jails, a child-welfare group said Tuesday.

Worse, the child offenders are now virtual "ghost" child prisoners because authorities refuse to officially acknowledge their incarceration.

"Until now, the government has yet to officially acknowledge and stop this egregious practice of police child detention and torture, notwithstanding protests aired by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Human Rights Committee against this inhumanity," the Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice said in a statement Tuesday.

It added these children still languish in police headquarters, stations, and substations under the authority of the Philippine National Police pending inquest proceedings by the Department of Justice, and while awaiting court-issued commitment orders.

These are separate from children previously confined under Bureau of Jail Management and Penology custody in city and municipal jails, it said.

According to the group, President Arroyo may be held liable for allowing this practice to go on.

"As a matter of state norm and practice, the PNP criminally persists in hauling off children to police jails all over the country, save for Cebu City. This brazen violation of the Special Child Protection Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child occurs with the President's criminal neglect, if not tacit approval and acquiescence," it added.

"For her refusal and failure to stop this barbarity, the President is ultimately liable for this monstrosity on account of the principle of command responsibility," it added.

The group said Arroyo should take the first step by acknowledging the existence of these ghost children prisoners who lurk in the shadows of police dungeons especially in Metro Manila and major urban centers, "without official acknowledgment, transparency and accountability."

The group also branded as "misleading" Arroyo's claims that the establishment of CRADLE and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 has stopped the violations of children's rights.

It said the BJMP and the Department of Social Welfare and Development routinely refuse to assume custody over children accused of violating the law unless police produce commitment orders issued by the courts.

BJMP and DSWD have long been justifying this anti-child practice of admitting to their custody only children with court-issued commitment orders by citing their own manual of internal policies and procedures.

The two agencies ignore the Special Child Protection Act (RA 7610) and the country's treaty obligations, it added.

"Such BJMP, DSWD, and PNP practice conspire in condemning children to perpetually suffer from abuses, e.g., tattooing, torture, and sexual abuse, in the hands of the police and adult crime suspects during police detention. Never mind if it takes eons of time for the commitment order to be delivered to DSWD and/or BJMP," it said.

It added the tedious process begins with police paperwork that undergoes evaluation by the prosecutors, and eventually winds up in snail-paced and backlog-ridden courts, then back again to the police, at the expense of children traumatized and brutalized during police incarceration in the interim.

"More children will continue to suffer from this institutionalized violence unless the President observes in good faith the letter and spirit of the law by requiring DSWD and BJMP to assume custody over CAVL even without court orders," it said.

The Coalition urged Arroyo to abrogate the DSWD and BJMP anti-child requirement for the police to produce court-issued commitment orders before admitting CAVL into their custody.

"Rather, police officers should be allowed to immediately turn over, at the precise point of arrest, to CRADLE and other DSWD and/or BJMP facilities all children accused of violating the law without further need of court-issued commitment orders that proves prejudicial to their best interests. This way, the long-standing practice of police child detention and its concomitant evils would be cast into oblivion," it said. - GMANews.TV

Posted by marga at Mayo 11, 2007 4:22 PM | TrackBack
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