Save Philippine Children in Prison--
To: UN, UNICEF, Amnesty Int'l, Philippine Govt, US Congress
Petition to Save Philippine Children in Prison
August 22, 2005
WHEREAS, the Philippines is a signatory and has ratified the UNICEF-sponsored Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on September 1990, as one of 192 countries who are bound to its provisions, and
WHEREAS the Philippines, under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) the combined Second and Third State Reports of the Philippines' implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva on October 23, 2003, reaffirming the country’s commitment to human rights and democracy, but has regrettably fallen short of expectation when it comes to implementation, and
WHEREAS, despite international guidelines setting the minimum standards for the treatment of children in detention and recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the Philippines, such as the Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law, positive treatment of children in Philippine jails is rare and often provided by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) rather than the State (State Sponsored Violence against Children in Philippines - as presented to the UN Committee on Human Rights by PREDA Foundation, Inc) as featured in the recent CNN NEWS aired in August 2005 and other news articles worldwide, documenting that:
· The number of children in jails has grown to more than 20,000, or 10 percent of total prison population.
· Children ages 9 to 13 are incarcerated from time to time when caught for vagrancy, sniffing glue, sleeping in doorways and hanging out on the streets, and subsequently sent to adult jails.
· The children are made to perform massages on police officers and adult inmates in exchange for small amount of money or food.
· In certain jails, Children In Conflict with the Law are detained in a small, unventilated, concrete cell measuring approximately 3x7 meters containing over a hundred convicted adult prisoners that mix freely with the children.
· In Olongapo City, there are secret cells with no beds, furniture, faucet, hand basin or toilet exist where the children ages 8 to 15 have been locked up, mistreated, and sometimes mixed with mentally disturbed adult women. A hole in the floor is a toilet that is blocked and overflowing with feces. Insects, ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes endanger the health of the children. They are beaten, punched, kicked, hit with wood, padlocks, bamboo, and the handles of brooms. They are doused with water day and night, and are forced to sleep on the concrete floor even when it is wet. The testimony of the children, as young as 8 years, indicate that jailing is a common practice as well as the barbaric treatment expected of a concentrated camp.
· Despite a constitutional prohibition on the execution of person below 18 years of age, children have ended up on death row because concerned authorities rarely take the time to track down the birth certificates of impoverished children who are convicted of capital offenses, and
WHEREAS Article 37 of the ICCPR prohibits the imposition of the death sentence for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age, the worst form of human rights violation, and Philippine Republic Act 7659 providing for the reintroduction of the death penalty in the Philippines constitutes a gross violation of the Covenant, and
WHEREAS, President Gloria Arroyo lifted the suspension of Republic Act 7659, commonly known as the Death Penalty Act, in mid-2001 in response to pressure from anti-crime lobbyists and the business community. In late September 2002, President Arroyo suspended executions while a bill on abolition was before Congress. As of September 2003, there were seven children who were awarded death penalty. (PHILIPPINES: Something hanging over me-child offenders under sentence of death, AI INDEX: ASA 35/014/2003, 3 October 2003). The imposition of the death sentence on children is not only a breach of Philippine law but also a flagrant violation of the Philippines’ commitments under international law, and
WHEREAS, defects in the Philippine juvenile justice system continue to facilitate abuses, including torture and ill-treatment, and while the Philippine law lays down punitive measures for erring public officers, there has been no attempt to implement and enforce the law, and
WHEREAS, the UN Human Rights Committee concerns expressed in October 2003 at reports of cases of grave human rights violations that had not been investigated or prosecuted, remain unresolved (UNITED NATIONS International covenant on civil and political rights HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE, Seventy-ninth session: Summary Record of the 2138th Meeting, October 20, 2003), and
WHEREAS the Philippine government has failed to heed the UN Human Rights Committee’s call for an effective system of monitoring of all detainees; prompt investigations of complaints by an independent authority; and for the guarantee in practice of free access to lawyers and doctors immediately after arrest and at all stages of detention, and
WHEREAS, the failure to implement House Bills on Juvenile Justice of national significance indicates that protecting the rights of Children In Conflict with the Law is a low priority for the Philippine Government Committee on Justice, and negates the statement by President-appointed Philippine Delegates at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 1029th MEETING Held at the Palais Wilson, Geneva, on Wednesday, 18 May 2005, that Philippine “legislation protected children from all forms of abuse, not only sexual abuse” , shows an obvious failure of government to improve the situation for children in the Philippines as mandated by the UN Convention, and indicates the inability of government to harmonize its legislation on children in conflict with the law, with the provisions of the Convention, and
WHEREAS, there is now a global awareness among overseas Filipinos of the critical and emergent need to push for human dignity by constructively addressing poverty, child abuse and government corruption, and
WHEREAS, this Declaration and Statement of Position is a demonstration of the values we share as a people concerned with human rights, and our desire for constructive and thoughtful resolution of crucial issues, rejecting violence, fear and hate, and helping Filipinos regain trust and confidence in their government,
NOW THEREFORE we, the undersigned organizations based in the Philippines and abroad, Filipinos residing in the Philippines, concerned Filipino-Americans, Filipinos working overseas, and non-Filipinos supporting the rights of children, of our own volition, and with no intent other than to improve the deteriorating social conditions in the Philippines, do hereby declare that we have united as a single voice to demand integrity, accountability, credibility and transparency from all elected public officials in addressing our concerns regarding Children In Conflict with the Law. , WE STRONGLY URGE:
1. That President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as Chief of State of the Republic of the Philippines, be held responsible and accountable for the failure of government to protect the rights of Children in Conflict with the Law, as mandated by the UNICEF-sponsored Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
2. That this urgent matter affecting Children in Conflict with the Law, be further investigated without delay and all government officials responsible for overseeing and funding programs on juvenile justice be held accountable, by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body, including UNICEF, United Nations Commission Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the 72-member US-Philippine Friendship Caucus and even the US State Department, in a fair hearing according to law.
3. That the United Nations Human Rights Committee take effective measures for immediate implementation, by the Philippines, of the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summery Executions, urging the government to pass legislations and provide appropriate funding to protect the human rights of Children in Conflict with the Law.
4 That a FACT-FINDING COMMITTEE or independent monitoring and investigative body be created, composed of individuals with proven integrity and experience to conduct further investigation into these allegations of child abuse, with full access to children and the facilities where children are held.
5. That government administration, executive and legislative bodies have an ongoing and active dialogue with grassroots community leaders, both from the Philippines and from abroad, to help develop check and balance policies for oversight, as well as suggest, discuss, and provide workable and sustainable solutions on matters that concern public interest, protect the right of children, and help restore trust in government
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