Salinlahi to Mayor Isko: Make Streets safe through Adequate Youth programs, not through Punitive Moves that treat children as Criminals

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The child rights group, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, expressed concern over the curfew for minors recently implemented in the City of Manila by Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.

Particularly disturbing for the child rights group was the fact that the operations were done live in social media, exposing the faces of children to thousands of viewers. It is a violation of RA No. 9344 (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act) and discriminated against urban poor children who were publicly shamed.

According to Salinlahi, there were already about 400 children arrested over allegations of violating ordinances on the first night of its re-implementation in the City of Manila. Most minors who were arrested were from urban poor communities.

“Massive arrests of minors will never address the problem of children roaming the streets even late at night. Comprehensive programs for children/youth and their families can address the structural inequalities leading children to the street including lack of decent housing, inflation, domestic violence, and inadequate social protection systems,” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi secretary-general.

Salinlahi further said that under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children have the right to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Minors shall not be forcefully separated from their parents, be subjected to inhumane treatment and must be presumed “innocent until proven guilty” when they are accused of crimes or found violating penal laws, among others.

The group also said that Mayor Isko should also be careful in blaming children for causing crimes. “We believe that Mayor Isko knew who are the real criminals. He should focus on putting these real criminals in jail. Focusing efforts on treating children as criminals will only allow real criminals to roam free,” said Bonganay.

Bonganay also said that based on Salinlahi’s experience, children who end up in jails become more vulnerable to police abuses and violence due to lack of facilities and the fact that protective mechanisms are not in place.

Salinlahi proposes that Mayor Moreno and other local lawmakers educate the public first. “Children who are involved in petty crimes make up a mere 2% of the total crime, according to PNP.  Education, sports, cultural, and livelihood programs are better alternatives to punitive responses like curfew and will benefit the children, especially in urban poor communities.”

Salinlahi expressed openness in helping the mayor in coming up with such programs for the city. “We are one with you in making the city safe for children to play freely. Let us help them realize their rights and freedom. After all, they will inherit the kind of society we build for them today,” Bonganay ended. ###