Joint memo on handling children during ECQ inked

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MANILA—The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) on April 6, 2020 inked a Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-001, reiterating the protocols on reaching out to children, including those in street situations, in need of special protection, children at risk, and children in conflict with the law during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The said memorandum, signed by DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año and CWC Executive Director USec Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy is reminding all government units to recognize and promote the rights and best interest of the child during the implementation of the ECQ in the country.  It states that the joint undertaking is in line with Proclamation Nos. 929 and 922, series of 2020, R.A. 11332 and the Memorandum from the Executive Secretary signed on 16 March 2020 for the management of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation.

It mandates, among others, that “all local government officials are enjoined, in consultation with the Local Councils for the Protection of Children (LCPCs), to adhere to the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment of all individuals; do no harm; and in all application of restrictive measures local government needs to comply with the principles of proportionality, necessity and legality.” And as such, there shall be “strict observance of existing guidelines for reaching out on children in street situation in order that no greater harm or risk, whether physical, mental or psychological in nature, is placed on children in the operationalization of ECQ,” the memo further states. 

The memo which was signed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic turmoil, likewise reiterated the protocols that must be followed for proper treatment and conduct of children such as the Protocol for Case Management of Child Victims of Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation, as approved by the Committee on the Special Protection of Children specified in Resolution No. 1, series of 2013. Also to be considered is the Protocol to Reach Out Street Children, as approved by the CWC Board specified in Resolution No. 2, series of 2011.  Regarding the children in conflict with the law (CICL), the memo also suggested using the Manual in Handling Children at Risk and CICL as promulgated by the PNP through a Memo signed on 25 April 2016 and endorsed by the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC).

Since the barangays are in the frontline in implementing COVID-19 related laws and orders, the said memo reminds all chief executives, barangay officials and functionaries to follow the Barangay Protocol in Managing Cases of CILC and Children at Risk, as published by the JJWC and issued through DILG Memo Circular No. 2017-43 dated March 9, 2017 and endorsed by JJWC. Inasmuch as the COVID-19 pandemic is considered a national emergency, the memo likewise underscores the need to look into the Guidelines on the Localization of the Comprehensive Emergency Program for Children (CEPC) or R.A. 10821, Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, through DILG Memo Circular No. 2018-198, dated November 9, 2018.

In case where children are seen outside of their homes or domicile during the ECQ implementation, the memo encouraged “all local government officials in consultation with the LCPCs to apply child and gender-sensitive language and guidelines, and where at first instance, at the intake stage or first contact with the child, such officials should first reach out to parents, guardian of the child or social worker before such child is processed (if necessary)”.