New policy ensures rights of children deprived of their liberty in the Philippines

Caloocan Mayor Dale Gonzalo Malapitan signed the municipality’s new Child Protection Policy on December 5th.

In future, staff at institutions for young offenders must take the child’s best interests into account

Children who are deprived of their liberty in institutions in Caloocan City in the Greater Manila Area will in future be guaranteed certain basic rights.

That is the result of the Child Protection Policy that was signed by Caloocan mayor Dale Gonzalo Malapitan on December 5th.

The policy is an outcome of the EU-sponsored project Following the Child, in which DIGNITY works with the Philippine organisations Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) and Balay .

The new policy concerns children and youth who have come into conflict with the law and who are deprived of their liberty in the institutions that go by the Tagalog term Bahay Pag Asa (BPA) which means ‘Houses of Hope’.

The new policy implies that the staff in the institutions must, at all times, take the child’s best interests into account. This applies right from the child’s arrival at the BPA, during ongoing case processing, and until release. The policy addresses the criticism that has been directed at the BPAs. In the past, there have been examples of children showing signs of abuse after a stay in a BPA. Photos of children deprived of their liberty have been taken and published without the child’s or guardian’s consent.

In connection with the Following the Child project, CLRDC has conducted courses for BPA staff and consulted children deprived of their liberty about their wishes and needs.

»The development of the Child Protection Policy were the efforts of the BPA Personnel and staff, they put all their thoughts there based on their unwritten policies on child protection, and we are just here to facilitate, providing legal guidance on how to transcribe this into a written policy, structure it, and write the substantial contents«, says CLRDC director Rowena Legaspi in a press release.

DIGNITY senior researcher Steffen Jensen, who has worked in the Philippines for many years, says:

»The protection of children is absolutely crucial to the Philippine context, where we have recently seen massive violations of children’s human rights in connection with the war on drugs, which has cost the lives of hundreds of children. The fact that Caloocan is now recognizing children’s rights is a big step forward«.

According to Philippine law, all municipalities operating BPAs are required to adopt a policy for the protection of the children. The organisations behind the Following the Child project hope that Caloocan’s Child Protection Policy will be an inspiration in other parts of the country.

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