Youth group asks SC to nullify curfew ordinances
A youth group on Friday questioned before the Supreme Court ordinances imposing curfews on minors.
In a 39-page petition, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) through their counsel Atty. Jesus Falcis III urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order against the ordinances that impose curfews and eventually nullify them for being vague, unjust and repressive.
SPARK specifically wants the high court to declare as unconstitutional curfew ordinances in Manila, Quezon City and Navotas.
The Manila curfew ordinance, petitioners said, is contrary to Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, curfew violations are considered status offenses. Status offenses are offenses which discriminate only against a child, while an adult does not suffer any penalty for committing similar acts. These shall include curfew violations, truancy, parental disobedience and the like.
Curfew is allowed only if no penalty shall be imposed on children caught violating the curfew.
In Manila, however, SPARK said those caught violating curfews shall face a sanction of a reprimand for the youth, admonition for the parent or guardian.
If the offender is under 18 years old, penalty shall be admonition for the first offense, reprimand and warning for the second offense and imprisonment of 1 to 10 days or P2,000 fine or both for the third offense and subsequent offenses.
Aside from Manila, the other curfew ordinances in Quezon City and Navotas are vague because there is no clear standard on how to implement it or how to determine who are the minors violating the curfew.
“Some young adults look like they are below 18 or what could be called as baby-faced. Some of them will be tagged as violators while some of them will not be,” the petition stated.
“The apprehension or non-apprehension of baby-faced looking adults will depend on the differing application of law enforcers. Furthermore, some minors can look like they are already of legal age and will not be apprehended while young adults will be apprehended,” the petition further stated.
The petition cited the case of petitioner Mark Leo Delos Reyes, who, despite being of legal age was apprehended by barangay tanods in Manila for violating the curfew ordinance. Delos Reyes insisted that he was already a third year college student and 18 years old but the tanod refused to budge. He was only released by the tanods after he showed his legs full of hair.
Another petitioner Ronel Baccutan, on the other hand, despite being of legal age was apprehended by the municipal officials in Navotas. He and his friends were ordered to perform 200 squats. Baccutan said they were threatened that drugs and knives will be planted on them if they refuse to comply.
“The arbitrary application and enforcement of the Curfew Ordinances are inevitable given that law enforcers only conduct a visual inspection of alleged minors violating the curfew. The determination of the age of the alleged curfew violator will be subjective depending on the law enforcer’s assessment of a person’s face and body physique,” the petition stated.
Petitioners added that the curfew ordinances also violated the minor’s right to liberty and right to travel.
The petition took note of the plight of one of SPARK’s member who is studying in Manila but lives in Quezon City. By the time she reaches home, her relatives are already sleeping and she sometimes needs to go out to buy food.
While the Manila ordinance provides an exemption to minors on lawful errands in times of emergency, going out to buy food at a convenience store is non-emergency though a necessity but there is the risk of being caught by the authorities.
The curfew ordinances are unconstitutional because it deprives parents of their natural and primary rights in the rearing of the youth.
“We are filing for and on behalf of the all young citizens who also have the right to be contributing members of society without being threatened by undue punishment and possible instances of overreaching from authorities like the police,” said SPARK spokesperson Joanne Lim.
“We are also crying foul on the unjust detention of the youth’s parents if their children are apprehended during curfew hours,” Lim added.
Lim was referring to Quezon City Ordinance No. 2301 of 2014 implementing a curfew on minors from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The said ordinance stipulates that “the parent or guardian of the curfew violator will be penalized for allowing the minor to go out during this period, either ‘knowingly or by insufficient control.'”
Petitioners said if the government wants to prevent crime at night, there are less restrictive means such as massive street lighting programs, installation of closed-circuit television (CCTVs) on public streets and regular visible patrols by law enforcers. RAM/rga
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