Philippine President, top police and Cabinet officials criminally liable for abuse of 52,000 children prisoners sign now

COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY PINS DOWN PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT, TOP POLICE AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS FOR WIDE SCALE CHILD PRISON ABUSE


By Coalition to Stop Child Detention Through Restorative Justice


The doctrine of command responsibility as laid down in the landmark case of In re Yamashita, and as further entrenched in the Nuremberg Charter and Judgments, the Pinochet doctrine, the jurisprudence hammered out by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (i.e., Celebici case) and Rwanda, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, pins down the President, the secretaries of the Department of Interior and Local Governments and the Department of Justice, as well as the chief of the Philippine National Police for their conspiratorial acquiescence, tacit consent to, and criminal neglect to stop the jailing of thousands of children belonging to the poorest of the poor in police jails swarming with adult prisoners nationwide.

As a generally accepted principle of international law, command responsibility - which imputes criminal responsibility upon heads of states, civilian authorities, and military commanders for their failure to prevent and punish their subordinates who perpetrate crimes against humanity and war crimes when they actually knew or were in a position to know the atrocities or serious human rights violations - forms part of the law of the land (Article II Section 2, 1987 Philippine Constitution).

Pursuant to the principle of command responsibility, the President and top government and police officials are culpable for the wanton violation of the childrenвs human rights on a national scale. The President and the officials actually knew and were in a position to know this fact especially in light of the official pronouncement made by the Office of the President, through its official spokesperson, Ricardo Saludo, on December 11, 2003, in a press conference wherein Saludo fielded questions from the press about the matter and promised to remedy the situation.

The brutal state practice of jailing children with adult prisoners in an organized, systematic, and widespread manner under sub-human conditions and deprived of their right to legal, psychological, medical, health, and social assistance and services constitutes torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and punishment as well as a form of crimes against humanity that are universally condemned by the world community. Mixing up children with adults has long been outlawed by the community of nations pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that has been ratified by all nations, save for the United States and Somalia (which lacks a duly constituted government to ratify the treaty). Even the U.S., however, prohibits the jailing of children with adults.

This only shows that this injustice has long been condemned by humankind on account of its sheer inhumanity as to sting humanityвs conscience and incite her collective indignation.

Disparaging the criminalization and dehumanization of children who are being locked up by authorities with adult prisoners under sub-human conditions as purely вspeculativeв just like what the Ombudsman has done in dismissing the childrenвs complaint betrays its own utter insensitivity to the human rights of children prisoners. Despite its own constitutionally decreed independence, it is lamentable that the Ombudsman refused to consider as a matter of judicial notice that the jailing of children with adults is inimical and prejudicial - unduly injurious - to their psychological, emotional, moral, spiritual, social, and physical development and well-being,that is why the world community has outlawed this gruesome practice.

The undue injury sustained by children prisoners on a continuing basis is attributable to the President and top police and government officials, who conspire in perpetuating this injustice on account of their implicit acquiescence, consent, and criminal neglect to stop this outrageous practice.

There is no excuse for this gross human rights violation. No justification exists for the President and top police and government officials to continue trampling upon the inviolable dignity and humanity of children in conflict with the law.

The President and top government officials are accountable for the egregious violation of the children prisonersв human rights by virtue of the principle of command responsibility due to their continuing acquiescence, consent, and criminal neglect to prevent this pernicious practice - that victimizes street children, prostituted girls and boys, and child laborers - much less to punish the PNP officers and members who directly lock up the children with adults in police jails upon arrest with the tacit acquiescence and consent of the President and top police and government officials.

Shielding the President, the chief of the PNP, and the secretaries of the DILG and DOJ from culpability for this widespread violation of the childrenвs dignity and humanity merely perpetuates this injustice and further fortifies the wall of impunity surrounding this state-perpetrated barbarity.

This is also a betrayal of the Ombudsmanвs duty to promote the best interests of the child.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights proscribes the mixing up of children with adults. The 1987 Philippine Constitution which condemns torture and other forms of cruel,inhumane, and degrading treatment and punishment, also bans this practice. The Special Child Protection Act (RA 7610) criminalizes this practice for being inimical to the psychological, emotional, moral, spiritual, and physical well-being and development of the young Yet this hooliganism persists and is bound to persist due to the tacit acquiescence and criminal neglect of the President of the Philippines, top Cabinet officials, and the PNP chief to stop and eradicate this state-perpetrated violence against children. But the Ombudsman, who is supposed to defend the people from the abuses and excesses of the powers-that-be, shields the President and top officials from criminal responsibility for this crime of massive scale, victimizing 13,300 to 20,000 children every year.

Two United Nations treaty bodies, namely the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, have strongly condemned the mixing up of children with adult prisoners in their concluding observations that were earlier transmitted to the government, debunking the Ombudsmanвs claims that the President and top government officials were unaware and far removed from this crime.

Yet, in spite of these international developments and official declarations from no less than the United Nations, that are matters of judicial notice, the Ombudsman, claiming that the President and top police and government officials were unaware and have nothing to do with this de facto state norm and practice, threw out the class suit filed by children prisoners asking that the President and top officials be charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019) for causing undue injury to the children in conflict with the law by virtue of the principle of command responsibility. Betraying its mandate as the supposed вguardian of the people,в the Ombudsman also junked the clamor of the children prisoners for the President and the top Cabinet officials and the PNP chief to be ordered by the Ombudsman to cease and desist from jailing children with adults immediately and unconditionally, thereby giving the green light for the PNP to shamelessly continue with the ghastly practice with total impunity.

With the Ombudsmanвs order, the wall of impunity surrounding the egregious practice of jailing children with adults has been further entrenched and fortified.

The systematic, organized and widespread practice of hauling off children to jails swarming with adult detainees smacks of brazen discrimination committed by the President and top government and police officials against the children of the poorest of the poor who are quite vulnerable to this form of abuse due to their economic marginalization and political powerlessness.

The Ombudsmanвs order opens up the floodgates for more gruesome violations of childrenвs human rights since the barbaric practice of jailing children with adults spurs childrenвs complaints of being tortured, raped, tattooed, and subjected to myriad forms of abuse by the police as well as adult prisoners with impunity due to the lack of effective grassroots mechanisms to prevent and remedy such onslaughts against children.

This order effectively strips children prisoners of effective avenues of redress for this serious form of human rights violation that the Ombudsman itself condones by shielding the President and top officials from any culpability.

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Teri BaldwinBy:
SustainabilityIn:
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President of the Republic of the Philippines, top police and Cabinet officials

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