What a UN pact says about jailing of minors in anti-tambay campaign

July 2, 2018 - 5:42 PM
Minors as young as five-years-old are jailed with actual criminals after President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered individuals below 18 to be arrested in the anti-'tambay' campaign. (Screenshot from YouTube - Al Jazeera)

President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to rid the streets of so-called loiterers has resulted in minors being put to jail, a move that seems at odds with a United Nations treaty.

It also recalled how minors are being treated in the West due to US President Donald Trump’s border policy.

Like Duterte’s directive on bystanders, the new order for minors was vague at its best. He said in a speech:

“So 18. We do not have specifics. Eighteen, below 18, you arrest the teenagers there around loitering because we have to protect our children. Nagkalat na ang droga, nagkalat na ang lahat.”

As expected, there were people who have voiced out their concerns over the new policy.

Twitter user “Daughter of Mindanao” added that minors would most likely learn wrongdoing while in jail with actual criminals, saying that she has witnessed a toddler “curse and swear like it’s no one’s business.”

“It is more likely that boys and girls learn to pick pockets and (commit) other petty crimes while being in jail with criminals. This is a fact.”

A video report by Al Jazeera showed minors in the Philippines being imprisoned with actual criminals. Some of them are just five-years-old.

Against UN’s conventions on children’s rights

When Duterte implemented the anti-“tambay” campaign, it was eventually interpreted as a stricter enforcement of city and municipal ordinances to prevent street crime.

His decision to include minors in the campaign has roots in his previous legislative directive to work on lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9. He said that criminal syndicates have been using children to peddle illegal drugs.

The proposal has since been rejected by the House but Duterte maintained his stance on apprehending minors. Now, it has come into fruition under the anti-“tambay” drive.

But the move is likely at odds with Philippine law. It also violates the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Philippines is a signatory to the treaty that is automatically applied to members of the United Nations.

Under the treaty, 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.

Being a member of the United Nations, the Philippines is expected to adhere to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Philstar/File photo)

In addition, Article 40 of the treaty states that children who were found guilty of committing a crime must undergo “counseling, probation, foster care, education and vocational training programmes and other alternatives to institutional care.”

They are also not supposed to be “compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt.”

The minors rounded up in Duterte’s campaign do not appear to be enjoying the rights entitled to them by the international community.

The UN’s treaty stated that minors are highly recommended to be placed in foster care in such cases.

In the United States, children whose parents have illegally crossed the US-Mexico border are placed in the custody of foster cares. Their parents — the adults — are the ones who are sent to jail.