By Ben Rosario
Two House of Representatives committees have endorsed the passage of a bill that proposes to penalize parents and guardians of children apprehended for violation of the proposed 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew hours.
The House committees on appropriations and on welfare of children chaired by Reps. Karlo Alexei Nograles (PDP-Laban, Davao City) and Divina Grace Yu (PDP-Laban, Zamboanga del Sur), respectively, called for the approval of House Bill 7513 or the “Unsafe Hours For Children Act.”
HB 7513 consolidates two legislative proposals authored by Reps. Gus Tambunting (PDP-Laban, Parañaque City); Carlos O. Cojuangco (NPC, Tarlac); Ma. Lourdes Aggabao (NPC, Isabela) and Anna Marie Villaraza-Suarez (ALONA Party-list).
The bill declares the time between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. as “unsafe hours” and prohibits children from “loitering, roaming around, sleeping and meandering” in public places.
The nationwide ban covers children defined in the bill as persons below 18 years old and those over 18 years old but unable to fully take care of themselves.
Curfew hour regulations will not apply on children who are in public places during the prohibited hours but are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Those traveling in privately owned, school or public utility vehicles due to long distance between school and abode will not be apprehended.
Also not to be arrested are those involved in emergency situation; are engaged in authorized employment activity and attending to official school, religious, recreational, educational social and community activities and events.
Students on their way home but are caught in traffic will be required to carry a certification from teachers indicating the time they left the school
Minors and their parents will be required to attend counseling sessions for violations of the curfew law.
However, habitual violators will be handed over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for counseling and appropriate intervention.
The bill seeks to penalize parents or guardians with a P2,000 fine and made to undergo 48 hours of community service or both on the first offense committed by their child.
The graduated penalties impose P3,000 fine or 72-hour community service or both for the second offense and 100-hour community service and P5,000 fine for the third.
Enforcement of the ban is assigned to barangay governments with the barangay chairman being tasked to oversee the implementation. The Barangay Council for the Protection of Children is also tasked to implement the curfew-hour regulation.
Under HB 7513, law enforcement officers are prohibited from exhibiting uncouth behavior in front of the offending minor.
The bill also encourages the involvement of community members in enforcing its provisions such as reporting to authorities the presence of unchaperoned children in public places.
In filing the bill, Cojuangco stressed that the imposition of curfew would lessen the chances of minor getting involved in juvenile violence and crimes.
“In addition, curfew keeps them away from temptations such as drug use, violent acts, sexual risk, heavy partying and alcohol intake,” he added.