Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislations in the Philippines, calls on the government to ensure that children’s rights and welfare are heavily safeguarded and not be turned into mere collateral damage in connection to its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The recent case involving a police officer who admitted to raping the 15-year-old daughter of detained drug suspects only highlights the dangers for children when child violence is perpetrated by the very same people who are supposed to protect them.
Initial investigation revealed that on October 25, Manila Police Officer Eduardo Valencia solicited sex from the child in exchange for releasing her parents who were arrested on a drug-related offense. Valencia was tasked to escort the child home from the police station, but instead brought her to a motel in Manila where the crime took place. Initial findings indicate forced sexual intercourse.
This violation perpetrated on the child has become more damaging after Valencia stated that raping drug suspects or their family members is a common practice among the police force in their campaign against illegal drugs. This disturbing revelation, if true, exposes the real victims of the government’s war against drugs: children who live in fear of being violated, especially being raped and sexually harassed. In fact, according to the National Baseline Study on Violence against Children – a study by the Government supported by UNICEF – 1 in 5 Filipino children suffer from sexual violence.
We call on the Government to not only thoroughly investigate the crime and obtain justice for the child, but also acknowledge that the war on drugs only exposes children to grave danger because of the abuses by people in authority that go unchecked.
Law enforcement agencies should purge its ranks of these abusive officials and focus on increasing these institutions’ capacity to protect citizens, especially the most vulnerable. No commitment is better articulated than bringing to justice these predators in uniform and having a more child rights sensitive approach to law enforcement.
We also call on our lawmakers to prioritize pending bills that seek to raise the minimum age to determine statutory rape from the current 12 years old – the lowest in ASEAN nations – to at least 16 years old. Doing so would protect more children from child rape, and arm our justice system with vital powers to bring justice to abused children.
Child rape is only one of several crimes perpetrated against children as a result of the Government’s war on drugs. As of 2017, the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center has recorded a total of 74 child deaths due to the campaign. Furthermore, a study published by the Ateneo School of Government in August 2018 showed that up to 32,395 children were orphaned because of the anti-illegal drugs campaign, while close to half a million children are now estimated to be deprived of parents who were imprisoned on drug-related charges.
We call on the Government of the Philippines to honor its legal and moral obligation to promote, protect, and fulfill the human rights of every child, as a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To continue turning a blind eye to child rights violations linked to the war on drugs and treating child abuses as mere collateral damage is to renege on this commitment.
We call on all child rights advocates and organizations to unite in demanding immediate action to prevent further violation of children’s rights. Crime committed against any child cannot be labeled and condoned as mere “collateral damage.”