PHILIPPINES: Children suffer inhuman treatment, severe malnutrition due to government neglect

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly condemns the Manila City government for its apparent outright neglect to improve conditions at the Reception and Action Center (RAC), a public child care institutions.

The AHRC has obtained a copy of a photo, taken on October 12, showing a naked and severely malnourished boy lying on the floor. He is one of about 270 persons, most of them children, are held at the RAC supposedly for “protective custody”.  The condition of other children who are still detained them are yet to be ascertained.

This type neglect has led to further deterioration of abysmal conditions – including torture, inhuman treatment, and food deprivation resulting in severe malnutrition – the children are forced to suffer while held there on dubious grounds.

The RAC, a public child care centre under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is where street or homeless children are detained after the police and social workers take them off the streets of Manila and deposit them at the RAC.

Once a child is taken into RAC custody, they are continuously detained without charges. Neither these children nor their parents would know the reasons why they are held, and when they would be released. They are effectively deprived of their liberty; however, the local police and the social workers try to justify the arrest and detention as a form of “protective custody.”

In practice these children are neglected. They are being tortured, abused, deprived of adequate food, and not given basic needs. The police, social workers, and the RAC are neither rescuing nor protecting these children. The unwritten goal is to keep them away from public, notably tourists.

The city government of Manila is fully aware of the condition at the RAC; there have been numerous appeals, request, and concrete recommendations relayed to the city government, to immediately resolve this issue.

In February this year, Bahay Tuluyan, a local NGO and partner of the AHRC, working on the problems street children face, informed and expressed their concern to Joseph Estrada, mayor of Manila, urging him to take action. In their letter, they noted concern over the practices of torture and inhumane treatment by RAC officials.

In March, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), sister organisation of the AHRC, also informed the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during its 25th session in Geneva, Switzerland, asking them to take immediate action regarding the torture and violence against children in child care centres.

Regrettably, despite repeated appeals, it is now obvious that neither the national nor the city government had taken concrete action.

The AHRC, once again, urges the city and the national government to address this matter without delay. The continued failure and outright neglect by the government to act promptly on this is unlawful, and is unacceptable.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-188-2014
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : No Torture
Issues : Child rights, Judicial system, Right to food, Rule of law, Torture,