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July 29, 2016

Being Grounded Or Curfew – That Is The Question

The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on several ordinances by the cities of Metro Manila. With the purpose of protecting minors, several local ordinances were enacted restricting the movement of the youth past certain hours in the night.

A youth group, Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) filed a petition with the SC to proclaim that the local ordinances were illegal. Using Republic Act 9344, Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, the curfew on minors, they claim, restricts liberty and the right to travel.

There many issues that are implied in this petition. National law vs. local ordinances, constitutional rights vs police power, adult vs minor, Pokemon vs Yugioh (ooops sorry). The ordinances thrust the purpose of the law because the ends justify the means. In other words, the ends are the safety and protection of the minors. The means to accomplish those ends are to restrict the movement of the minors. At the same time, the law punishes the minors who exercise their freedom of movement. Let’s move on to the counter point.

In trying to invalidate a law, the question is always “Does the means justify the ends?” The youth group would answer in the negative. Their point would probably state that how can enforcing a law be accomplished by violating constitutional rights? They may be correct.tro-SPARK

The Constitution always trumps any law from the legislature. Section 1 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution states that no one shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law. Also, Section 6 of the same Article III states the right to travel cannot be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law. The only applicable exemption here is for public safety. So, is the public more safe, if there are no minors out in the street? A city would more safe if there are less adults in the street.

By citing the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, the SC probably invoked Section 57 which states that any conduct not considered an offense or not penalized if committed by an adult shall not be considered an offense and shall not be punished if committed by a child. Simply speaking, the youth act states that no law can be enacted making criminal an act done by a minor when it is not illegal if done by an adult. Crazy, right? Now, if the Constitution is more superior over a national law, hierarchy dictates that a national law defeats a local ordinance.

While the city ordinances should be applauded for trying to protect the youth by imposing curfews, the rights of the youth granted to them by the Constitution cannot be curtailed. Additionally, criminal liability always stems from an adult mind. A minor child does not have the discernment nor the maturity to figure that an otherwise normal and innocent act done by an adult will be illegal if he or she does it.

So what happens if the local ordinances are struck down? It’s not up to the SC or Spark to make a new law. It is the legislature’s job, whether nationally or locally. But they have to do it properly and within the bounds of the Constitution.

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