The Children's Rehabilitation Center meanwhile said in a statement that 1,028 children's lives were "put in great danger due to direct shooting, aerial bombing, indiscriminate firing and strafing" by security forces.
STAR/Edd Gumban, File

On Children's Day, groups say gov't policies put kids at risk
( - November 20, 2018 - 6:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — Children's rights groups slammed President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, Universal Children's Day. Salinlahi Alliance for Children's Concerns said in a statement that the government "continuously disregards and deprives children of their rights, and literally kills them or renders them orphans."

"Children's Day is supposedly a celebratory day emphasizing how the government champions the promotion and protection of children rights," Eule Rico Bonganay of Salinlahi said during a Children's Day event at UP Diliman on Tuesday. 

"However, this is far from reality. The battle against all forms of abuses and violence against Filipino children is far from over, especially that such is permitted by no less than the government and the president himself," Bonganay added.

Kids endangered in gov't operations, group says

According to another rights group, the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center, at least 74 minors have been killed in the course of the government's campaign against illegal drugs.

The government, which has acknowledged the deaths of more than 4,900 "drug personalities" since the war on drugs started in July 2016, has stressed that the campaign is needed to keep children safe from drugs and from the syndicates that sell them. 

The Children's Rehabilitation Center meanwhile said in a statement that 1,028 children's lives were "put in great danger due to direct shooting, aerial bombing, indiscriminate firing and strafing by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and government-backed paramilitary groups."

They also said that children's rights have "constantly been jeopardized as more children fall victim to counter-insurgency operations and the war on drugs while Duterte continues to enable these atrocities." 

Frances Bondoc, CRC's officer-in-charge, said children are "not spared from threats, harassment, torture and other forms of violations, especially in rural areas with extremely heavy military presence, like Mindanao which is under martial law."

The group claims that 136,945 children have been victims of human rights violations but did not elaborate on the nature of those violations.

Age of criminal liability

Duterte has repeatedly said that he wants the age of criminal liability lowered to hold minors accountable for crimes.. Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III filed a bill in September lowering it to 13, while Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte), while he was House speaker, proposed lowering the age of criminal liability to 9 years old. 

Duterte blamed the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, filed by Sen. Francis Pangilinan and enacted in 2006, for allegedly allowing minors to get away with crimes. Although the law merely prescribes other remedies for crimes and does not absolve them of civil liability. 

The parents or guardians of children in conflict with the law share the civil liability with them.

READ: Duterte calls Pangilinan 'dumbest' lawyer over Juvenile Justice Law

The Commission on Human Rights has cautioned against lowering the age of criminal liability. "How can children have a future if they're tagged as a criminal at an early age?"  CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said on November 12. 

Bondoc said that, on Children's Day, the CRC encourages the participation of children, "so they may be able to stand and defend their own rights." The group also said that "as much as children are educated and mobilized, adults needed to be children's rights advocates too.” — Ryan Macasero

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