MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) on Friday said that the rising death toll of teens and minors in the country are not isolated cases and deserve “serious” and “concrete” actions from the government.
“The Commission stands that the rights of our children—even the accused and adjudged for crimes, but most especially the innocent—must be consistently upheld and protected. Rights should never be sacrificed in the drive against criminality and should never be shrugged off when convenient,” the statement read.
CHR added that the recent killings of Kian delos Santos, 17; Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19; Reynaldo de Guzman, 14; Raymart Siapo, 19; and Grace Omadlao, 16, “raises serious concerns on the quality of protection that the government extends to our children.”
It can be recalled that Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II branded the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos as an “isolated case.”
Delos Santos was killed by policemen in an anti-illegal drug operation in Caloocan on August 16. Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said that Delos Santos was a drug courier for his father and uncle, a claim the teenager’s father refuted.
CHR stressed that children in conflict with the law are protected by the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 that requires the State to “apply the principles of restorative justice in all its laws, policies and programs applicable to children in conflict with the law.”
“Death is never an appropriate response,” the rights group said.
According to CHR, witnessing the procedures of anti-illegal drug operations of the police also creates a negative impact on the children of the accused.
“Exposure to conflict and violence related to the illegal drugs trade, as studies show, impacts children’s psychological development due to the significant correlation between living in violent surroundings and aggression and rule-breaking,” they said.
Furthermore, CHR called on the administration to abide by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), a treaty the Philippines is party of.
Article 33 of the UN CRC cites that the State is obligated to “take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.”
In relation to the rising number of youth killings, CHR has ordered its NCR, Region III, and Investigation offices to conduct “motu proprio investigations.”
The rights body requested the cooperation of the Philippine National Police in seeking the truth behind the death of the teenagers.
“We strongly believe that it is only through openness and transparency that we can achieve justice for these killings,” CHR said.
Moreover, CHR stressed the importance of civil society groups, sectoral organizations, and the public in monitoring the “attempts to discount the dignity of human life.”
“We support the vision of the government’s drug campaign against illegal drugs to provide a better future for our children, but for whom are we doing this drive if they are all gone?” CHR asked.
“Our children deserve better treatment. They ought to be given food and nourishment, not bullets in their bodies; they should be resting on clean, safe shelters, not lying cold in the streets; they need care and protection, not a life of violence. It is only through our collective, genuine commitment that we can ensure the welfare our future generation. Together with all those vulnerable and voiceless, it is high-time for us to stand up for their rights.”