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Confined spaces

After President Duterte overturned the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to let people aged 10 to 65 instead of 15 to 65 go outside for the sake of their physical and mental health, and spur economic activity, advocates of children’s rights called on government to reconsider its reimposition of stay-at-home rules for children aged 14 and below in the entire country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Go back to your houses for now. Besides, 10 years old to 14… 10, 11, 12, they can watch TV. They can glue their attention to the TV the whole day. I am sorry. Mine is just a precaution. I am afraid because the new strain strikes the children,” President Duterte said in his regular address to the nation.

“While we acknowledge that the administration has the safety and welfare of Filipino children in mind, we believe that keeping children confined in their homes does as much or more harm than good as this situation which has prevailed for almost a year is detrimental to their physical and mental health,” Child Rights Network said in a statement.

CRN’s call runs counter to the positions of pediatrician organizations and other experts who warned government that allowing children to go out would be risky. However, they stated that imposing this rule clearly violates several provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children which the Philippines is a party to, specifically the right of the child to play and leisure.

The group noted that confining children at home deprives them of enabling environments in which play and recreational opportunities are available to them, adding not all homes can provide such enabling conditions.

CRN called on local governments, in consultation with their constituents, to be allowed to determine the best outdoor spaces where children can play safely. The group also called on government to focus on improved blended learning mechanisms and provide a comprehensive plan on safely opening schools at the soonest possible time.

While there are parents who might be content with letting their kids watch TV all day, we cannot deny that the past year has been difficult for children, especially those who live in homes with less than ideal conditions. Our government that has failed to provide safe outdoor spaces for Filipinos even before the pandemic has continued to fail us in this regard and the pandemic has exacerbated the suffering of the millions who do not have the luxury of such spaces in their homes.

A government that has kept children, who comprise a significant chunk of its largely-young population, confined within their homes for almost a year by now, should’ve come up with a better plan than extending their sentence indefinitely. If the national government is incapable of creative solutions, perhaps it can empower local governments to come up with the ways and means to give their constituents safe spaces for recreation and leisure while we endure this never-ending pandemic response.*

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