SPARK v. QC (G.R. No. 225442. August 08, 2017)


CASE DIGEST: SAMAHAN NG MGA PROGRESIBONG KABATAAN (SPARK),[*] JOANNE ROSE SACE LIM, JOHN ARVIN NAVARRO BUENAAGUA, RONEL BACCUTAN, MARK LEO DELOS REYES, AND CLARISSA JOYCE VILLEGAS, MINOR, FOR HERSELF AND AS REPRESENTED BY HER FATHER, JULIAN VILLEGAS, JR., PETITIONERS, V. QUEZON CITY, AS REPRESENTED BY MAYOR HERBERT BAUTISTA, CITY OF MANILA, AS REPRESENTED BY MAYOR JOSEPH ESTRADA, AND NAVOTAS CITY, AS REPRESENTED BY MAYOR JOHN REY TIANGCO, RESPONDENTS. [G.R. No. 225442, August 08, 2017]

This petition assails the constitutionality of the curfew ordinances issued by the local governments of Quezon City, Manila, and Navotas.

FACTS: Following the campaign of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to implement a nationwide curfew for minors, several local governments in Metro Manila started to strictly implement their curfew ordinances on minors through police operations which were publicly known as part of "Oplan Rody."[3]

Petitioners,[9] spearheaded by the Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK)- an association of young adults and minors that aims to forward a free and just society, in particular the protection of the rights and welfare of the youth and minors[10] - filed this present petition, arguing that the Curfew Ordinances are unconstitutional because they: (a) result in arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, and thus, fall under the void for vagueness doctrine; (b) suffer from overbreadth by proscribing or impairing legitimate activities of minors during curfew hours; (c) deprive minors of the right to liberty and the right to travel without substantive due process; and (d) deprive parents of their natural and primary right in rearing the youth without substantive due process.[11] In addition, petitioners assert that the Manila Ordinance contravenes RA 9344, as amended by RA 10630.[12]

More specifically, petitioners posit that the Curfew Ordinances encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement as there are no clear provisions or detailed standards on how law enforcers should apprehend and properly determine the age of the alleged curfew violators.[13] They further argue that the law enforcer's apprehension depends only on his physical assessment, and, thus, subjective and based only on the law enforcer's visual assessment of the alleged curfew violator.[14]

While petitioners recognize that the Curfew Ordinances contain provisions indicating the activities exempted from the operation of the imposed curfews, i.e., exemption of working students or students with evening class, they contend that the lists of exemptions do not cover the range and breadth of legitimate activities or reasons as to why minors would be out at night, and, hence, proscribe or impair the legitimate activities of minors during curfew hours.[15]

Petitioners likewise proffer that the Curfew Ordinances: (a) are unconstitutional as they deprive minors of the right to liberty and the right to travel without substantive due process;[16] and (b) fail to pass the strict scrutiny test, for not being narrowly tailored and for employing means that bear no reasonable relation to their purpose.[17] They argue that the prohibition of minors on streets during curfew hours will not per se protect and promote the social and moral welfare of children of the community.[18]

Furthermore, petitioners claim that the Manila Ordinance, particularly Section 4[19] thereof, contravenes Section 57-A[20] of RA 9344, as amended, given that the cited curfew provision imposes on minors the penalties of imprisonment, reprimand, and admonition. They contend that the imposition of penalties contravenes RA 9344's express command that no penalty shall be imposed on minors for curfew violations.[21]

Lastly, petitioners submit that there is no compelling State interest to impose curfews contrary to the parents' prerogative to impose them in the exercise of their natural and primary right in the rearing of the youth, and that even if a compelling interest exists, less restrictive means are available to achieve the same. In this regard, they suggest massive street lighting programs, installation of CCTVs (closed-circuit televisions) in public streets, and regular visible patrols by law enforcers as other viable means of protecting children and preventing crimes at night. They further opine that the government can impose more reasonable sanctions, i.e., mandatory parental counseling and education seminars informing the parents of the reasons behind the curfew, and that imprisonment is too harsh a penalty for parents who allowed their children to be out during curfew hours.[22]

ISSUE: The primordial issue for the Court's resolution in this case is whether or not the Curfew Ordinances are unconstitutional.

HELD: The petition is partly grantedWHEREFORE, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Court hereby declares Ordinance No. 8046, issued by the local government of the City of Manila, and Pambayang Ordinansa Blg. No. 99-02, as amended by Pambayang Ordinansa Blg. 2002-13 issued by the local government of Navotas City, UNCONSTITUTIONAL and, thus, NULL and VOID; while Ordinance No. SP-2301, Series of 2014, issued by the local government of the Quezon City is declared CONSTITUTIONAL and, thus, VALID in accordance with this Decision.

Void for Vagueness. The assailed pieces of ordinance are NOT void for being vague.
"A statute or act suffers from the defect of vagueness when it lacks comprehensible standards that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application. It is repugnant to the Constitution in two (2) respects: (1) it violates due process for failure to accord persons, especially the parties targeted by it, fair notice of the conduct to avoid; and (2) it leaves law enforcers unbridled discretion in carrying out its provisions and becomes an arbitrary flexing of the Government muscle."[48]

In this case, petitioners' invocation of the void for vagueness doctrine is improper, considering that they do not properly identify any provision in any of the Curfew Ordinances, which, because of its vague terminology, fails to provide fair warning and notice to the public of what is prohibited or required so that one may act accordingly.[49] The void for vagueness doctrine is premised on due process considerations, which are absent from this particular claim.

Essentially, petitioners only bewail the lack of enforcement parameters to guide the local authorities in the proper apprehension of suspected curfew offenders. They do not assert any confusion as to what conduct the subject ordinances prohibit or not prohibit but only point to the ordinances' lack of enforcement guidelines. The mechanisms related to the implementation of the Curfew Ordinances are, however, matters of policy that are best left for the political branches of government to resolve. Verily, the objective of curbing unbridled enforcement is not the sole consideration in a void for vagueness analysis; rather, petitioners must show that this perceived danger of unbridled enforcement stems from an ambiguous provision in the law that allows enforcement authorities to second-guess if a particular conduct is prohibited or not prohibited.

The pieces of ordinance have sufficient standards as provided by special law.

Petitioners are mistaken in claiming that there are no sufficient standards to identify suspected curfew violators. While it is true that the Curfew Ordinances do not explicitly state these parameters, law enforcement agents are still bound to follow the prescribed measures found in statutory law when implementing ordinances. Specifically, RA 9344, as amended, provides:
Section 7. Determination of Age. - x x x The age of a child may be determined from the child's birth certificate, baptismal certificate or any other pertinent documents. In the absence of these documents, age may be based on information from the child himself/herself, testimonies of other persons, the physical appearance of the child and other relevant evidence. (Emphases supplied)
This provision should be read in conjunction with the Curfew Ordinances because RA 10630 (the law that amended RA 9344) repeals all ordinances inconsistent with statutory law.[53] Pursuant to Section 57-A of RA 9344, as amended by RA 10630,[54] minors caught in violation of curfew ordinances are children at risk and, therefore, covered by its provisions.[55] It is a long-standing principle that "[c]onformity with law is one of the essential requisites for the validity of a municipal ordinance."[56] Hence, by necessary implication, ordinances should be read and implemented in conjunction with related statutory law.

Right of Parents to Rear their ChildrenPetitioners are NOT CORRECT that the Curfew Ordinances are unconstitutional because they deprive parents of their natural and primary right in the rearing of the youth without substantive due process. In this regard, they assert that this right includes the right to determine whether minors will be required to go home at a certain time or will be allowed to stay late outdoors. Given that the right to impose curfews is primarily with parents and not with the State, the latter's interest in imposing curfews cannot logically be compelling.[57]

Section 12, Article II of the 1987 Constitution articulates the State's policy relative to the rights of parents in the rearing of their children:
Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
As may be gleaned from this provision, the rearing of children (i.e., referred to as the "youth") for civic efficiency and the development of their moral character are characterized not only as parental rights, but also as parental duties. This means that parents are not only given the privilege of exercising their authority over their children; they are equally obliged to exercise this authority conscientiously. The duty aspect of this provision is a reflection of the State's independent interest to ensure that the youth would eventually grow into free, independent, and well-developed citizens of this nation. For indeed, it is during childhood that minors are prepared for additional obligations to society. "[T]he duty to prepare the child for these [obligations] must be read to include the inculcation of moral standards, religious beliefs, and elements of good citizenship."[58] "This affirmative process of teaching, guiding, and inspiring by precept and example is essential to the growth of young people into mature, socially responsible citizens."[59]

While parents have the primary role in child-rearing, it should be stressed that "when actions concerning the child have a relation to the public welfare or the well-being of the child, the [S]tate may act to promote these legitimate interests."[66] Thus, "[i]n cases in which harm to the physical or mental health of the child or to public safety, peace, order, or welfare is demonstrated, these legitimate state interests may override the parents' qualified right to control the upbringing of their children."[67]

[W]here minors are involved, the State acts as parens patriae. To it is cast the duty of protecting the rights of persons or individual who because of age or incapacity are in an unfavorable position, vis-a­ vis other parties. Unable as they are to take due care of what concerns them, they have the political community to look after their welfare. This obligation the state must live up to. It cannot be recreant to such a trust. As was set forth in an opinion of the United States Supreme Court: "This prerogative of parens patriae is inherent in the supreme power of every State, x x x."[69] (Emphases and underscoring supplied)

The Curfew Ordinances are but examples of legal restrictions designed to aid parents in their role of promoting their children's well-being.

At this juncture, it should be emphasized that the Curfew Ordinances apply only when the minors are not - whether actually or constructively (as will be later discussed) - accompanied by their parents. This serves as an explicit recognition of the State's deference to the primary nature of parental authority and the importance of parents' role in child-rearing. Parents are effectively given unfettered authority over their children's conduct during curfew hours when they are able to supervise them. Thus, in all actuality, the only aspect of parenting that the Curfew Ordinances affects is the parents' prerogative to allow minors to remain in public places without parental accompaniment during the curfew hours.[73]

Finally, it may be well to point out that the Curfew Ordinances positively influence children to spend more time at home. Consequently, this situation provides parents with better opportunities to take a more active role in their children's upbringing.

Petitioners are partially correct that the Curfew Ordinances violate the people's right to travel.

The right to travel is recognized and guaranteed as a fundamental right[88] under Section 6, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:
Section 6. The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law. (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
Jurisprudence provides that this right refers to the right to move freely from the Philippines to other countries or within the Philippines.[89] It is a right embraced within the general concept of liberty.[90] Liberty - a birthright of every person - includes the power of locomotion[91] and the right of citizens to be free to use their faculties in lawful ways and to live and work where they desire or where they can best pursue the ends of life.[92]

The right to travel is essential as it enables individuals to access and exercise their other rights, such as the rights to education, free expression, assembly, association, and religion.[93]

Nevertheless, grave and overriding considerations of public interest justify restrictions even if made against fundamental rights. Specifically on the freedom to move from one place to another, jurisprudence provides that this right is not absolute.[95] As the 1987 Constitution itself reads, the State[96] may impose limitations on the exercise of this right, provided that they: (1) serve the interest of national security, public safety, or public health; and (2) are provided by law.[97]

The stated purposes of the Curfew Ordinances, specifically the promotion of juvenile safety and prevention of juvenile crime, inarguably serve the interest of public safety. The restriction on the minor's movement and activities within the confines of their residences and their immediate vicinity during the curfew period is perceived to reduce the probability of the minor becoming victims of or getting involved in crimes and criminal activities. As to the second requirement, i.e., that the limitation "be provided by law," our legal system is replete with laws emphasizing the State's duty to afford special protection to children, i.e., RA 7610,[98] as amended, RA 9775,[99] RA 9262,[100] RA 9851, [101] RA 9344,[102] RA 10364,[103] RA 9211,[104] RA 8980,[105] RA 9288,[106] and Presidential Decree (PD) 603,[107] as amended.

As explicitly worded, city councils are authorized to enact curfew ordinances (as what respondents have done in this case) and enforce the same through their local officials. In other words, PD 603 provides sufficient statutory basis - as required by the Constitution - to restrict the minors' exercise of the right to travel.

The restrictions set by the Curfew Ordinances that apply solely to minors are likewise constitutionally permissible. In this relation, this Court recognizes that minors do possess and enjoy constitutional rights,[108] but the exercise of these rights is not co-extensive as those of adults.[109] They are always subject to the authority or custody of another, such as their parent/s and/or guardian/s, and the State.[110] Thus, the State may impose limitations on the minors' exercise of rights even though these limitations do not generally apply to adults.

For these reasons, the State is justified in setting restrictions on the minors' exercise of their travel rights, provided, they are singled out on reasonable grounds.

Philippine jurisprudence has developed three (3) tests of judicial scrutiny to determine the reasonableness of classifications.[122] The strict scrutiny test applies when a classification either (i) interferes with the exercise of fundamental rights, including the basic liberties guaranteed under the Constitution, or (ii) burdens suspect classes.[123]The intermediate scrutiny test applies when a classification does not involve suspect classes or fundamental rights, but requires heightened scrutiny, such as in classifications based on gender and legitimacy.[124] Lastly, the rational basis test applies to all other subjects not covered by the first two tests.[125]

Considering that the right to travel is a fundamental right in our legal system guaranteed no less by our Constitution, the strict scrutiny test[126] is the applicable test.[127] At this juncture, it should be emphasized that minors enjoy the same constitutional rights as adults; the fact that the State has broader authority over minors than over adults does not trigger the application of a lower level of scrutiny.[128]

The strict scrutiny test as applied to minors entails a consideration of the peculiar circumstances of minors vis-a-vis the State's duty as parens patriae to protect and preserve their well-being with the compelling State interests justifying the assailed government act. Under the strict scrutiny test, a legislative classification that interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the disadvantage of a suspect class is presumed unconstitutional.[131] Thus, the government has the burden of proving that the classification (i) is necessary to achieve a compelling State interest, and (ii) is the least restrictive means to protect such interest or the means chosen is narrowly tailored to accomplish the interest.[132]

In this case, respondents have sufficiently established that the ultimate objective of the Curfew Ordinances is to keep unsupervised minors during the late hours of night time off of public areas, so as to reduce - if not totally eliminate - their exposure to potential harm, and to insulate them against criminal pressure and influences which may even include themselves as denoted in the "whereas clauses" of the Quezon City Ordinance, the State, in imposing nocturnal curfews on minors.

Based on these findings, their city councils found it necessary to enact curfew ordinances pursuant to their police power under the general welfare clause.[140] In this light, the Court thus finds that the local governments have not only conveyed but, in fact, attempted to substantiate legitimate concerns on public welfare, especially with respect to minors. As such, a compelling State interest exists for the enactment and enforcement of the Curfew Ordinances.

With the first requirement of the strict scrutiny test satisfied, the Court now proceeds to determine if the restrictions set forth in the Curfew Ordinances are narrowly tailored or provide the least restrictive means to address the cited compelling State interest - the second requirement of the strict scrutiny test.

Least Restrictive Means/ Narrowly Drawn

The second requirement of the strict scrutiny test stems from the fundamental premise that citizens should not be hampered from pursuing legitimate activities in the exercise of their constitutional rights. While rights may be restricted, the restrictions must be minimal or only to the extent necessary to achieve the purpose or to address the State's compelling interest. When it is possible for governmental regulations to be more narrowly drawn to avoid conflicts with constitutional rights, then they must be so narrowly drawn.[141]

Although treated differently from adults, the foregoing standard applies to regulations on minors as they are still accorded the freedom to participate in any legitimate activity, whether it be social, religious, or civic.[142] Thus, in the present case, each of the ordinances must be narrowly tailored as to ensure minimal constraint not only on the minors' right to travel but also on their other constitutional rights.[143]

After a thorough evaluation of the ordinances' respective provisions, this Court finds that only the Quezon City Ordinance meets the above-discussed requirement, while the Manila and Navotas Ordinances do not.

The Manila Ordinance cites only four (4) exemptions from the coverage of the curfew. For its part, the Navotas Ordinance provides more exceptions. It also exempts minors from the curfew during these specific occasions: Christmas eve, Christmas day, etc.[147]

This Court observes that these two ordinances are not narrowly drawn in that their exceptions are inadequate and therefore, run the risk of overly restricting the minors' fundamental freedoms. To be fair, both ordinances protect the rights to education, to gainful employment, and to travel at night from school or work.[148] However, even with those safeguards, the Navotas Ordinance and, to a greater extent, the Manila Ordinance still do not account for the reasonable exercise of the minors' rights of association, free exercise of religion, rights to peaceably assemble, and of free expression, among others.The exceptions under the Manila Ordinance are too limited, and thus, unduly trample upon protected liberties. The Navotas Ordinance is apparently more protective of constitutional rights than the Manila Ordinance; nonetheless, it still provides insufficient safeguards as discussed in detail below:

First, although it allows minors to engage in school or church activities, it hinders them from engaging in legitimate non-school or non-church activities in the streets or going to and from such activities; thus, their freedom of association is effectively curtailed. It bears stressing that participation in legitimate activities of organizations, other than school or church, also contributes to the minors' social, emotional, and intellectual development, yet, such participation is not exempted under the Navotas Ordinance.

Second, although the Navotas Ordinance does not impose the curfew during Christmas Eve and Christmas day, it effectively prohibits minors from attending traditional religious activities (such as simbang gabi) at night without accompanying adults, similar to the scenario depicted in Mosier.[149] This legitimate activity done pursuant to the minors' right to freely exercise their religion is therefore effectively curtailed.

Third, the Navotas Ordinance does not accommodate avenues for minors to engage in political rallies or attend city council meetings to voice out their concerns in line with their right to peaceably assemble and to free expression.

Certainly, minors are allowed under the Navotas Ordinance to engage in these activities outside curfew hours, but the Court finds no reason to prohibit them from participating in these legitimate activities during curfew hours. Such proscription does not advance the State's compelling interest to protect minors from the dangers of the streets at night, such as becoming prey or instruments of criminal activity. These legitimate activities are merely hindered without any reasonable relation to the State's interest; hence, the Navotas Ordinance is not narrowly drawn. More so, the Manila Ordinance, with its limited exceptions, is also not narrowly drawn.

In sum, the Manila and Navotas Ordinances should be completely stricken down since their exceptions, which are essentially determinative of the scope and breadth of the curfew regulations, are inadequate to ensure protection of the above-mentioned fundamental rights. While some provisions may be valid, the same are merely ancillary thereto; as such, they cannot subsist independently despite the presence[150] of any separability clause.[151]

The Quezon City Ordinance stands in stark contrast to the first two (2) ordinances as it sufficiently safeguards the minors' constitutional rights. It provides the following exceptions:
Section 4. EXEMPTIONS - Minor children under the following circumstances shall not be covered by the provisions of this ordinance; 
(a)
Those accompanied by their parents or guardian;
(b)
Those on their way to or from a party, graduation ceremony, religious mass, and/or other extra-curricular activities of their school or organization wherein their attendance are required or otherwise indispensable, or when such minors are out and unable to go home early due to circumstances beyond their control as verified by the proper authorities concerned; and
(c)
Those attending to, or in experience of, an emergency situation such as conflagration, earthquake, hospitalization, road accident, law enforcers encounter, and similar incidents[;]
(d)
When the minor is engaged in an authorized employment activity, or going to or returning home from the same place of employment activity without any detour or stop;
(e)
When the minor is in [a] motor vehicle or other travel accompanied by an adult in no violation of this Ordinance;
(f)
When the minor is involved in an emergency;
(g)
When the minor is out of his/her residence attending an official school, religious, recreational, educational, social, communitv or other similar private activity sponsored by the city, barangay, school, or other similar private civic/religious organization/group (recognized by the community) that supervises the activity or when the minor is going to or returning home from such activity, without any detour or stop; and
(h)
When the minor can present papers certifying that he/she is a student and was dismissed from his/her class/es in the evening or that he/she is a working student.[152] (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
As compared to the first two (2) ordinances, the list of exceptions under the Quezon City Ordinance is more narrowly drawn to sufficiently protect the minors' rights of association, free exercise of religion, travel, to peaceably assemble, and of free expression. Thus, with these numerous exceptions, the Quezon City Ordinance, in truth, only prohibits unsupervised activities that hardly contribute to the well-being of minors who publicly loaf and loiter within the locality at a time where danger is perceivably more prominent.

To note, there is no lack of supervision when a parent duly authorizes his/her minor child to run lawful errands or engage in legitimate activities during the night, notwithstanding curfew hours. As astutely observed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen during the deliberations on this case, parental permission is implicitly considered as an exception found in Section 4, item (a) of the Quezon City Ordinance, i.e., "[t]hose accompanied by their parents or guardian", as accompaniment should be understood not only in its actual but also in its constructive sense. As the Court sees it, this should be the reasonable construction of this exception so as to reconcile the juvenile curfew measure with the basic premise that State interference is not superior but only complementary to parental supervision. After all, as the Constitution itself prescribes, the parents' right to rear their children is not only natural but primary.

Ultimately, it is important to highlight that this Court, in passing judgment on these ordinances, is dealing with the welfare of minors who are presumed by law to be incapable of giving proper consent due to their incapability to fully understand the import and consequences of their actions.

Under our legal system's own recognition of a minor's inherent lack of full rational capacity, and balancing the same against the State's compelling interest to promote juvenile safety and prevent juvenile crime, this Court finds that the curfew imposed under the Quezon City Ordinance is reasonably justified with its narrowly drawn exceptions and hence, constitutional. Needless to say, these exceptions are in no way limited or restricted, as the State, in accordance with the lawful exercise of its police power, is not precluded from crafting, adding, or modifying exceptions in similar laws/ordinances for as long as the regulation, overall, passes the parameters of scrutiny as applied in this case.

Penal Provisions of the Manila Ordinance

Going back to the Manila Ordinance, this Court deems it proper - as it was raised- to further discuss the validity of its penal provisions in relation to RA 9344, as amended.

To recount, the Quezon City Ordinance, while penalizing the parentis or guardian under Section 8 thereof,[154] does not impose any penalty on the minors. For its part, the Navotas Ordinance requires the minor, along with his or her parent/s or guardian/s, to render social civic duty and community service either in lieu of - should the parent/s or guardian/s of the minor be unable to pay the fine imposed - or in addition to the fine imposed therein.[155] Meanwhile, the Manila Ordinance imposed various sanctions to the minor based on the age and frequency of violations.

Thus springs the question of whether local governments could validly impose on minors these sanctions - i.e., (a) community service; (b) reprimand and admonition; (c) fine; and (d) imprisonment. Pertinently, Sections 57 and 57-A of RA 9344, as amended, prohibit the imposition of penalties on minors for status offenses such as curfew violations.

To clarify, these provisions do not prohibit the enactment of regulations that curtail the conduct of minors, when the similar conduct of adults are not considered as an offense or penalized (i.e., status offenses). Instead, what they prohibit is the imposition of penalties on minors for violations of these regulations. Consequently, the enactment of curfew ordinances on minors, without penalizing them for violations thereof, is not violative of Section 57-A.

The provisions of RA 9344, as amended, should not be read to mean that all the actions of the minor in violation of the regulations are without legal consequences. Section 57-A thereof empowers local governments to adopt appropriate intervention programs, such as community-based programs[161] recognized under Section 54[162] of the same law.

In this regard, requiring the minor to perform community service is a valid form of intervention program that a local government (such as Navotas City in this case) could appropriately adopt in an ordinance to promote the welfare of minors.

The sanction of admonition imposed by the City of Manila is likewise consistent with Sections 57 and 57-A of RA 9344 as it is merely a formal way of giving warnings and expressing disapproval to the minor's misdemeanor. Admonition is generally defined as a "gentle or friendly reproof' or "counsel or warning against fault or oversight."[163] Notably, the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) and our jurisprudence in administrative cases explicitly declare that "a warning or admonition shall not be considered a penalty."[166]

In other words, the disciplinary measures of community-based programs and admonition are clearly not penalties - as they are not punitive in nature - and are generally less intrusive on the rights and conduct of the minor. To be clear, their objectives are to formally inform and educate the minor, and for the latter to understand, what actions must be avoided so as to aid him in his future conduct.
A different conclusion, however, is reached with regard to reprimand and fines and/or imprisonment imposed by the City of Manila on the minor.  Reprimand is a formal and public pronouncement made to denounce the error or violation committed, to sharply criticize and rebuke the erring individual, and to sternly warn the erring individual including the public against repeating or committing the same, and thus, may unwittingly subject the erring individual or violator to unwarranted censure or sharp disapproval from others. In fact, the RRACCS and our jurisprudence explicitly indicate that reprimand is a penalty,[170] hence, prohibited by Section 57-A of RA 9344, as amended.

Fines and/or imprisonment, on the other hand, undeniably constitute penalties - as provided in our various criminal and administrative laws and jurisprudence - that Section 57-A of RA 9344, as amended, evidently prohibits.

As worded, the prohibition in Section 57-A is clear, categorical, and unambiguous. It states that "[n]o penalty shall be imposed on children for x x x violations [of] juvenile status offenses]." Thus, for imposing the sanctions of reprimand, fine, and/or imprisonment on minors for curfew violations, portions of Section 4 of the Manila Ordinance directly and irreconcilably conflict with the clear language of Section 57-A of RA 9344, as amended, and hence, invalid. On the other hand, the impositions of community service programs and admonition on the minors are allowed as they do not constitute penalties.

CONCLUSION

In sum, while the Court finds that all three Curfew Ordinances have passed the first prong of the strict scrutiny test - that is, that the State has sufficiently shown a compelling interest to promote juvenile safety and prevent juvenile crime in the concerned localities, only the Quezon City Ordinance has passed the second prong of the strict scrutiny test, as it is the only issuance out of the three which provides for the least restrictive means to achieve this interest. In particular, the Quezon City Ordinance provides for adequate exceptions that enable minors to freely exercise their fundamental rights during the prescribed curfew hours, and therefore, narrowly drawn to achieve the State's purpose. Section 4 (a) of the said ordinance, i.e., "[t]hose accompanied by their parents or guardian", has also been construed to include parental permission as a constructive form of accompaniment and hence, an allowable exception to the curfew measure; the manner of enforcement, however, is left to the discretion of the local government unit.

In fine, the Manila and Navotas Ordinances are declared unconstitutional and thus, null and void, while the Quezon City Ordinance is declared as constitutional and thus, valid in accordance with this Decision.

For another, the Court has determined that the Manila Ordinance's penal provisions imposing reprimand and fines/imprisonment on minors conflict with Section 57-A of RA 9344, as amended. Hence, following the rule that ordinances should always conform with the law, these provisions must be struck down as invalid.

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