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Surigao to go strict on minor offenders, to reimpose curfew

Authorities have vowed to give more teeth to the city’s curfew ordinance against minors in a bid to arrest rising criminality purportedly committed by youngsters or minors acting as lookouts.

The Surigao City Police Office (SCPO) and barangay tanods will relaunch its series of crackdown on minors who will be found in public places at night until dawn in the city streets and other entertainment places.

Theft and robbery cases involving children are on the rise here based on initial police reports. Last month, the provincial office of the Land Transport Office (LTO) was ransacked and the alleged perpetrator was a minor.

Last year, City Ordinance 310 series of 2010, also known as “The Curfew Ordinance for Minors,” was passed after lawmakers and the City Hall were alarmed over the alarming cases of theft and robbery committed by minors.

PO3 Cheryl Q. Saldo, head of the Women and Children Protection Desk of the SCPO, said the ordinance was already implemented in several barangays three months ago but this was stopped as barangays were reportedly not yet ready to implement the law.

“The barangay will implement this ordinance, while us in the police will only serve as backup,” Saldo clarified, allaying fears the law could serve as a ticket to committing human rights violations against children.

City Councilor Jose V. Begil Jr., a human rights advocate, said it is actually the parents who will be sanctioned by the law.

“There is what we call vicarious responsibility of the parents and guardians,” the lawmaker said during a seminar on the implementation of the law that was called by the city government last week.

Association of Barangay Captain (ABC) president Pablo A. Bonono said any concerns regarding the possible excesses that might be committed by law enforcers is still to be seen, saying for now it is still highly unlikely as the police officers and barangay police officers, including tanods, just recently underwent trainings on human rights.

He said the urban barangays of Luna, Taft, Washington and San Juan will relaunch its crackdown operations on August 22.

Barangay Luna chairman Alfredo B. Dacuron said they are ready to implement the ordinance starting this week.

He also allayed fears that the law could create excesses, saying during the crafting of the ordinance, some human rights lawyers were present to join in the deliberation.

Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, or Republic Act 9344, minors who are suspects of crimes will not be charged of a criminal act. They will instead be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for proper disposition.

Meantime, Saldo said they already conducted over the weekend an initial surveillance on areas identified as favorite hang-outs of minors.

In a related development, the police officer issued a reminder to all business establishments that sell liquor and alcoholic beverages to minors to stop the practice or they will suffer the penalties, noting that a city ordinance enacted in 1990 prohibits the act.

Saldo said these businesses, especially those near the schools that sell and serve liquor to minor students, will be monitored.

The police officer added she already told establishments to post signs in conspicuous places warning persons below 18 of age that drinking liquor, beer or other intoxicants is prohibited.

She said alcoholism and drunkenness cause detrimental effects to the health and safety of citizens and has greatly contributed to the rise of criminality and juvenile delinquency in the city.

Saldo added there is an alarming incidence of alcohol-related crimes and accidents involving minors in the city.

“It is high time that the ordinance should be strictly enforced to prohibit them from imbibing intoxicating drinks,” the police officer said.
(Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)

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