CRUELTY is to intentionally cause suffering and fear. It takes the form of inhuman treatment, barbaric acts, and exploitation of people's weaknesses. In law, it is the intentional and malicious infliction of physical pain and/or mental distress. An act is even more cruel when it is committed by agents of the State in the name of the law or a higher purpose against the powerless and the marginalized.
The word cruel aptly describes the “walk of shame” — a most unfair punishment which was meted out to a teenager accused of stealing a pack of plastic bag. He was made to parade around the public market wearing a sign hung around his neck saying "ako ay magnanakaw, huwag tularan (I am a thief, do not imitate me)."
As voice and advocate of the youth, the National Youth Commission asserts that what the law enforcers made the 17-year-old boy do is not only inhumane, it is also illegal and tantamount to abuse. It is a grave injustice specially because the victim is a minor.
The “walk of shame” for the teenager is a clear violation of many fundamental legal principles and laws namely:
1. Bill of Rights, 1987 Constitution
The Philippine Constitution recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and demands the promotion their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It also demands that no person be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law, and that the accused be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven in court.
2. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Philippines ratified with the force of law in 1990, likewise demands that every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law. It directs recognition of the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth.
3. Republic Act 9344 - Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act
RA 934, which protects the interests of children in conflict with the law, demands that the child be treated with humanity and respect, and not be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
4. Republic Act 9745 - Anti-Torture Act of 2009
Republic Act 9745 or the “Anti-Torture Act”, prohibiting physical as well as psychological torture, specifically mentions parading the accused in public as one form of shame infliction
5. Republic Act 7610 - Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act
RA 7610 declares that the State shall provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty exploitation and discrimination and other conditions, prejudicial their development. The law mentions psychological and physical abuse, cruelty, and emotional maltreatment as forms of child abuse.
The NYC is appealing to law enforcers and local government officials to immediately stop this practice of humiliating suspects specially children and young people. As duty-bearers, state institutions should uphold and protect the rights and welfare of young people.
Cruel acts like the “walk of shame” breed a dangerous culture of contempt and aggression against the young. It runs counter to our mission of engendering compassion and dignity in our communities and nation.
Whatever end it may serve, cruelty is never justified. Never.