Allan: Curfew, Couvre Few

LEGAL Dictionary defines “A curfew is a law, regulation, or ordinance that forbids particular people or particular classes of people from being outdoors in public places at certain specified times of the day.”

Most curfew in are applicable to minors and very often we hear the parent “come back before curfew” to warn their children. Curfew can also be imposed on specific towns or locations.

Historically it was said that curfew is the name of a law, established during the reign of the English King William, the conqueror, by which the people were commanded to dispense with fire and candle at eight o'clock at night. It was abolished in the reign of Henry I., but afterwards it signified the time at which the curfew formerly took place. The word curfew is derived, probably, from couvre few, or cover fire. What seems to be the explanation is for homes to cover their lamps when the curfew is enforced. It may be the “lights out” as it is commonly known today.

Curfew is present in various countries like the United Kingdome 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act of the United Kingdom that created zones that allow police from 9 PM to 6 AM to hold and escort home unaccompanied minors under the age of 16, whether badly behaved or not. In some areas the curfew bells are rung to guide travelers safely home.

Iceland Child Protection Act No. 80/2002 requires children aged 12 and under to be indoors by 8:00 pm unless accompanied by an adult. Children aged 13-16 may not be outdoors after 10:00 pm except if they are on their way home from school, sports or youth club function.

In the United States, there is no Federal Law as it is local ordinance of towns and cities. The curfew attempts to deter disorderly behavior and crime, protect youth from victimization and to strengthen parental responsibility. Some cities fine business establishments that serve minors after the curfew hours. Likewise, parents are penalized for allowing their children to be outside during curfew.

During the martial law days, curfew was strictly enforced and my parents were very particular about it. My dad would fetch us wherever we were when the curfew hour comes. I remember one time that my brother Andrew was picked up for violating curfew but my dad did not fetch him until the next day. Curfew has become a part of life for the young and old.

But the youth of today in our country do not have any idea of what a curfew is as most of them were born after the EDSA Revolution. The culture of spending night times in karaoke bars, 24 hour internet shops, eateries or elsewhere. Night outs and overnight gigs are so common that when you say “curfew” you get a blank stare. It is something foreign and unthinkable because of the freedom that is given them by parents and society. That freedom for minors may see its end in the coming days as the military are gaining powers to restrict people in the guise of protection and safety.

Just an example, last July, 2016 the police implemented “operation Rody” by detaining children, youth, shirtless men roaming streets of Manila, Quezon City and Navotas. After a few days Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) petitioned the Supreme Court saying the ordinances were “unjust and repressive” and constitute restrictions on freedom of movement and travel. The Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order. In Quezon City it was an ordinance in 2014 they were implementing. In Manila it was a 2002 city ordinance that set the curfew for minors.

Close to home, Session Road, Legarda Road, Harrison night market and elsewhere still host minors after curfew hours. Bars with lights out at 10:00 pm are still opened and even do not inspect children to determine who are minors. Is it to curtail freedom? Or to prevent crimes? Or weld power? Enforce discipline? Or make responsible parenting? Or all of the above.

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