CHILD RIGHTS advocates condemned the spate of killings of suspected drug users and pushers in the Philippines, saying that it is unjust and an utter disregard of human rights.
The Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) slammed the outright violations of human rights of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the series of summary killings. “Although we recognize that there is a need to address the rampant substance abuse in the country, the Duterte government should have done its anti-drug and anti-crime campaign in a comprehensive manner”, said Madella Santiago, ARCSEA executive director.
The group also criticized the moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at the lower house. Santiago explained, “The use of minors of drug syndicates as peddlers and couriers should not entail putting them (children) at higher risks. Lowering the MACR would only endanger the lives and future of Filipino children. It would not help them and would merely turn them into hardened adult criminals. Where is compassion in that?”
ARCSEA called on the Duterte government to heed the clamor for justice to the hundreds of victims of summary killings, including two (2) minors and one (1) scholar of the NGO, Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation, Inc. and to implement preventive and corrective programs both for adult and children substance abusers and those at risk. “Killing those who are suspected of drug use and peddling or incarcerating minors, who are mostly from urban poor families, would not cure the long-lasting problem of substance addiction. The Duterte government should dig deeper into the social context why substance abuse proliferates. It is mainly because of the government’s failure to address the needs of the people—decent jobs and wages, poor and inadequate housing and social services such as health and education. Drug syndicates also run the country along with narco-politicians and narco-cops and generals from the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who are making big businesses out of illegal drugs”, reiterated Santiago.
Child rights advocates have been very vocal in opposing the wrong solution to the crime problem. “ARCSEA believes that running after syndicates and those abusive of their power and waging a massive education campaign for drug prevention and rehabilitating victims is more appropriate. Through prevention programs in the community level, even children at risk of being offenders can be mitigated. Children and young people can make use of their time through productive programs and activities that can be implemented by the local council for the protection of children”, Santiago further elaborated.
ARCSEA also called on the Duterte administration to respond to people’s needs of jobs, livelihood and affordable and accessible social services. “Aside from providing the needs of the people, including children, the Filipino citizenry have human rights that should always be upheld and protected by the government who have the primary responsibility to do so”, concluded Santiago.