AN alliance of residents and students of Quezon City, Manila and Navotas asked the Supreme Court Friday to declare as unconstitutional ordinances that impose curfew hours for minors in their cities.
The Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) also asked the justices to issue a temporary restraining order to immediately stop the three city governments from enforcing their curfew ordinances pending the resolution of the case.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada and Navotas City Mayor John Rey Tiangco were named respondents.
The group said the curfew ordinances are unconstitutional because they are vague and can result in arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
The ordinances are also too broad because they impair legitimate activities of minors during curfew hours and deprive minors of the right to liberty and to travel without substantive due process.
They also said the ordinances deprive parents of “the natural and primary right in the rearing of the youth without substantive due process.”
In particular, Spark said the Manila City curfew ordinance was contrary to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which prohibits the imposition of curfews except if they are for the protection and not the punishment of minors.
Ronnel Baccutan and Mark Leo de los Reyes, both petitioners, said that they have been accosted by authorities on separate occasions for allegedly violating the curfew ordinances, even though they are already of legal age.
“Some young adults look like they are below 18 years old 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 said.
“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 violators will be subjective depending on the law enforcer’s assessment of a person’s face and body physique,” the petitioners said.
The petition also recounts the experience of Clarissa Villegas, a minor, also a student of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), whose classes end at 9 p.m., and who travels daily from her school in Manila to her home in Quezon City for almost two hours. She was accosted by the authorities in the middle of her commute, apparently for violating the city curfew.
The petitioners noted that curfew ordinances usually exempt only working students or students with evening classes and none would exempt the situation of petitioners who engage in non-academic extracurricular activities at night with their friends or organizations like Spark.
The petitioners also argued that prevention of crime at night can be achieved by other means such as massive street lighting programs, installation of CCTVs in public streets, and regular visible patrols by law enforcers, and not only through the imposition of a curfew which impairs the right of minors to travel.
The petitioners also argued that keeping minors off the streets during curfew hours would not automatically result in a lower crime rate.
“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,” she added.
Under the Quezon City ordinance, Lim noted, parents or guardians of the curfew violator would be penalized for allowing the minor to go out during the period.
“These ordinances are implemented without due consideration of various important factors such as housing conditions of affected areas, hardships encountered in transportation and the late shifts experienced by affected students,” Lim said.
“We cannot neglect the rights of the citizens, most specially of the children and youth even if this administration’s primary concern is the pursuit of peace and order,” said Spark’s legal counsel Jesus Falcis III. “That is why we are requesting an immediate temporary restraining order for these ordinances while the Supreme Court is deciding on its constitutionality.”—With Sandy Araneta