Protection of children at risk and children in conflict with the law during COVID-19

The Joining Forces Alliance calls on all local government units to comply with the Joint Memorandum Circular by Department of Interior and Local Governance (DILG) and the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) dated April 6, 2020 in the context of the ECQ.

Type: Story

We are concerned about reports of children at risk (CAR) and children in conflict with the law (CICL) facing cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment for violating the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sadly, many CICL are still kept in regular jails and detention facilities, with adult criminals,” said Olga Rodriguez, Country Director of EDUCO Philippines, a member of the Joining Forces Alliance. “Detention centers in the country are in dire conditions with overcrowded cells and poor hygiene facilities where children might contract COVID-19,” Rodriguez added.”

The Joining Forces Alliance calls on all local government units to comply with the Joint Memorandum Circular by Department of Interior and Local Governance (DILG) and the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) dated April 6, 2020 in the context of the ECQ. It reiterated the protocols on reaching out to children including those in street situations, in need of special protection, CAR, and CICL.

We would like to reiterate the following in the handling of CAR and CICL:
● Law enforcers should first reach out to a parent, guardian, or social worker when children are violating curfew hours and quarantine measures.
● Children should be brought to a barangay official and released to the custody of parents.
● Offer child-offenders advice (payo) or a warning not to repeat their acts.

“We recognize the importance of the task of our law enforcers to strictly implement the quarantine measures and we value that these are for the protection of our communities,” said Pilgrim Bliss Gayo, Country Coordinator of Terre des Hommes – Germany in the Philippines. “However, it is also the task of law enforcement to ensure that children’s rights are promoted even during the ECQ,” stressed Gayo.

The Joining Forces Alliance urges the government to:
● Respect the fundamental human rights, including children’s rights, in the implementation of national and local action plans to combat COVID-19.
● Protect the dignity and welfare of children, don’t use degrading punishments.
● Guarantee that social welfare services for children are activated and adequately funded.

We call on the DILG to:
● Monitor the implementation of the Joint Memorandum Circular 2020-01.
● Impose appropriate penalties to any persons or officials in violation of the above.
● Facilitate immediate release of children who are under the custody of BJMP and LGU- managed jails, and transfer them to appropriate youth facilities.

We also appeal to all local governments to:
● Ensure the functionality of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children.
● Monitor the implementation of child protection response and referral mechanisms.
● Consult cases with the Local Council for the Protection of Children.
● Monitor all Bahay Pag-Asa centers and other youth care facilities to ensure that they are safe for children. Hygiene kits, food, and COVID-19 information should be provided.
● Personnel of such facilities should receive psychosocial support. They should also be trained in providing psychosocial support to children.

We urge the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council and the CWC to:
● Provide technical support to staff handling CAR and CICL cases.
● Inform communities on how to report child abuse cases (e.g. Bantay Bata 163).
● Monitor existing CICL cases.

Lastly, we urge parents and caregivers to supervise their kids and to follow curfew hours.

“Violence and discrimination against children can never be justified for the sake of combating a public health emergency,” said Rodriguez. “It is during this trying time that children critically need protection from all forms of violence or abuse.”

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