It is provided in the Constitution that the State shall defend the right of children to special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development. In the same vein, the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Declaration of the Rights of the Child provides that the child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief. The State, therefore, shall protect children from kidnapping by providing a rapid response mechanism.
An AMBER (Abducted and Missing child Broadcast Emergency Response) alert system provides the public with immediate and up-to-date information regarding a missing or kidnapped child via widespread media broadcast on television, radio and wireless devices. This system was developed in order to involve the community members to search for the kidnapped child and suspect.
In the Philippines, kidnapping a minor is punishable by reclusion perpetua which is the highest penalty imposed of a crime. While there are existing laws on child security, a mechanism providing rapid response in kidnapping cases can help prevent such heinous acts from happening.
Senate Bill No. 2256 was filed by Senator Mark Villar to provide a mechanism called the AMBER Alert System that will quickly disseminate information in case of kidnapping or disappearances of a child who is at risk of death or serious injury. This bill will encourage public’s participation in tracing the whereabouts of missing children and in identifying the perpetrators.
The Villar bill also provided that the Philippine Alert System shall be established and maintained by the DILG in cooperation and maintained by the DILG in cooperation with other relevant government agencies, broadcast media entities, and social media platforms. The AMBER Alert system shall be designed to quickly disseminate information about the kidnapping or disappearance of a child who is at risk of death or serious injury.
Moreover, participating law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, social media platforms, and other entities designated by the DILG shall cooperate with the Alert Coordinator and other relevant authorities in the rapid dissemination of AMBER Alerts to the public. Broadcasters and social media platforms shall, upon activation of an AMBER Alert, immediately disseminate relevant information to assist in the recovery of the missing or kidnapped child.
The criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert shall be established by the DILG in consultation with relevant government agencies, broadcasters, social media platforms, and child protection advocates. The criteria shall include, but shall not be limited to the following:
(1) The child is under 18 years of age; (2) There is reasonable belief that the child has been kidnapped and is in danger of serious harm or death; and (3) There is sufficient descriptive information of the child or abductor to assist in the recovery of the child.
Any person who knowingly and falsely activates an AMBER Alert or who provides false information regarding the abduction or disappearance of a child shall be penalized with imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than six years and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand pesos (Php 500,000) and not more than one million pesos (Php 1,000,000).