Children in jail in Philippines

Children in jail in Philippines

Children in jail in the Philippines continues to be a significant problem. According to Amnesty International, over 50,000 children in the Philippines have been arrested and detained since 1995. Torture, rape and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment are a part of every day life for those children while they're incarcerated.[1]

Most are charged with minor crimes, such as petty theft, sniffing solvents, and vagrancy.[2]


History and Statistics

By 2002, Children in Jail in the Philippines was attracting International Media attention. The Australian Government owned television network, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation run a documentary on the issue in which it stated, Children as young as eight are being held in adult prisons in The Philippines in contravention of international statutes and the country’s own laws. [3]

In September 2005, it was estimated that over 4,000 children were in jails and detention centers all over the country – many of them mixed with adults. [2]

Another estimate states there are an estimate 20,000 children in prison in the Philippines throughout a single year. [4]

By May 6, 2005, it was estimated there were 2,100 children in jails across the Philippines, 20 of them on death row. [5]

Getting information on children in jail is difficult, "No one knows what goes on inside of prisons because no one is allowed in," Father Cullen said during an interview with the Western Catholic Reporter, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. [6]


UNICEF is one of the members of the Juvenile Justice Network-Philippines (JJNP), a broad coalition of government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) responsible for groundwork on the landmark child protection law. [2] Since the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law (Republic Act 9344) was enacted in 2006, there has been a numerous improvement and some children are referred to welfare homes bypassing the jail. [7] Jailing of children in the Philippines is routine despite the fact that is forbidden by Philippine laws such as the Special Child Protection Act (RA 7610 Article VI[10][a]), the Presidential Decree 603 and RA 9344. The abusive practice, detrimental and dangerous to the child, is forbidden by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 10[2][b]), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 37[c]).[8]

The Child Victims

Amnesty International stated that Filipino children who come into conflict with the law are often from marginalized groups including street youth, drug users, and those with interrupted education, who have limited access to the family and societal structures meant to protect them. These children straddle the child and adult worlds and, in some ways, get the worst of each. Even before arrest, children who come into conflict with the law tend to represent the most disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of society. Many are fleeing difficult home situations, often exacerbated by abuse and poverty and resulting in an interrupted education. [9] Children in prison are frequently mixed with adult prisoners and sexually abused in the over packed cells. Here eighty to a hundred prisoners squat for 24 hours taking turns at lying down so congested are the small cells. The heat and stench is overpowering, the food is only a few cents a day and disease, malnutrition and tuberculosis are the daily hazard suffered by the children. [4] Children in jail are at risk of sickness and death from contagious diseases such as TB, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.[10]


Children are often jailed for things such as playing cards on a sidewalk and held there until their family can pay off a bribe to corrupt police. [11]

Indiscriminate 'rescue' operations

In response to widespread criticism of the governments often violent and harmful clean-up exercises, government officials in Metro Manila committed to a new initiative of 'rescuing' abused, neglected and exploited street children, placing them in shelters where they were said to be provided with food, medical care, education and protection. However, a recent report jointly published by Bahay Tuluyan and UNICEF reported that most ‘rescued’ street children comment that not only were they taken involuntarily and with violence, the conditions in the shelters to which they are taken are extremely poor.[12]


A number of charities are active in helping children in jail in the Philippines. Preda Foundation visits the Jails on a regular basis and hands out food and medicines. [11]

Jubilee have been active in gathering evidence and gave testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on the subject of children in prison in the Philippines. [13]

Kids Go Free was formed to advocate for children in conflict with the law. Based on research in the Philippines the group is concerned with the situation of children in jail worldwide. The website aims to raise awareness of this global problem and includes a forum.


Children in Angeles Jail are detained in a small (3 meters by 7 meters approx) unventilated concrete cell. There is no window in the cell, and the minors have no access to an electric fan which many of the adult cells have and which is necessary in the constant oppressive heat. The children's cell is in a block containing over a hundred convicted adult prisoners. The same cell is always used to house children regardless of the number in the jail. Reports from adult inmates indicate that the same cell was used for up to 15 children at a time. There is no bedding or basic sanitary items supplied by the jail. There is a separated concrete cubicle in the corner of the cell with a toilet. The children are not given any change of clothes, and commonly wear rags. There have been reports of a Hepatitis and TB epidemic in the Jail. The children have a maximum one-hour a day of exercise. They have to request this each day. Children report being underfed and hungry. There is little effort made to rehabilitate the children who report visits from a social worker on average less than once a month. Conditions in the jail may amount to torture, inhuman, degrading treatment of the children. Children are often sexually abused by other adult inmates or prison Authorities and are sold as child prostitutes. Children have been detained at Angeles District Jail, Angeles City, for months without charges, legal counsel or any regard for their legal rights. No arrest warrants were issued at the time of their arrest and no court order was given for their detention. None of these children has been provided with competent legal counsel, as required by Philippine law.[14][15][16]


UNICEF film about children in jail wins director award in international festival. [17]

  • Kids Behind Bars[18]


  1. ^ - Transcripts
  2. ^ a b c UNICEF - At a glance: Philippines - Philippines Senate action builds hope for children in jail
  3. ^ Foreign Correspondent - 03/04/2002: The Philippines - Child Prisoners
  4. ^ a b CRIN - Child Rights Information Network - Resources
  6. ^ CCN/Western Catholic Reporter: Catholic priest challenges abuse of Philippine children - Catholic Online
  7. ^ The Manila Times Internet Edition | OPINION > Children in jail still need saving
  8. ^ The Manila Times Internet Edition | OPINION > Children in jail still need saving
  9. ^ Philippines: A different childhood: the apprehension and detention of child suspects and offenders | Amnesty International
  10. ^ Kids behind Bars
  11. ^ a b The jailing of children brings trauma and abuse
  12. ^
  13. ^ Jubilee Action - bringing hope, changing lives
  14. ^ Preda Foundation, Inc. "Philippine minors in Jail: report 6th September 2002"
  15. ^ Philippines: A different childhood: the apprehension and detention of child suspects and offenders | Amnesty International
  16. ^ University of Minnesota Human Rights Library
  17. ^ Unicef Philippines - Home page
  18. ^ Kids Behind Bars by Hazel Thompson- The Digital Journalist

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