Rights groups hit lack of facilities for children in conflict with the law
MANILA, Philippines– Several organizations decried the move to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old, pointing out how current facilities for children still need improvement.
In a press conference at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office on Tuesday, January 22, different government and non-government groups criticized Bahay Pag-Asa, a supposedly 24-hour child-caring institution providing short-term residential care and intensive juvenile intervention and support for CICL.
Groups present in the conference included Psychological Association of the Philippines, Child Rights Network, Council for the Welfare of Children, and Civil Society Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
They argued that Bahay Pag-Asa is not a place that could help children in conflict with the law (CICL).
Cristina Sevilla, of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and World Organization Against Torture, explained that if you go inside Bahay Pag-Asa, you will immediately lose hope.
“It is not a child-caring institution as mandated by law, it’s a kulungan (prison). Ganon kalala ang situation ng mga CICL sa Bahay Pag-Asa (That’s how dire the situation is inside Bahay Pag-Asa for CICL),” said Sevilla
Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF Philippines Margarita Ardivilla also mentioned that the law doesn’t give any guarantee that children inside Bahay Pag-Asa or any detention cell will be safe from harassment.
Out of the 114 required Bahay Pag-Asa centers, only 58 are operational, according to CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra Armamento. She further opined that current Bahay Pag-Asa centers don’t meet the standards required by law as it lacks budget.
“Ang problema wala na rin funding para sa mga services like doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, yung mga tutulong sa mga bata. Kung ganon ang sitwasyon hindi ba dapat ‘yun muna ang unahin?” said Gabriella Representative Arlene Brosas.
(The problem is there is no funding for services like doctors, nurses, psychiatrists that will help children. If that’s the situation, shouldn’t we fix that first?)
Meanwhile, Dr. Liane Alampay of the Psychological Association of the Philippines pointed out that there is a significant difference between children who are detained, and those who go through community-based interventions.
“The very act or experience of being detained makes it more likely for them to continue to make crimes once na nakalabas sila (they leave). On the other hand, children who go through community-based interventions or diversion programs are less likely to return to a life of crime,” said Alampay
Ardivilla reiterated that the law should save children, and the government should pay attention to children’s rights.
“Ang kailangan ng mga bata ay positibong disiplina, hindi parusa. Ang kailangan ng mga bata ay positibong disiplina, hindi sintensya.” said Ardivilla
(Children need to be disciplined positively, not punished. Children need to be disciplined positively, not chastised.) – Rappler.com
Jaira Krishelle Balboa is Rappler intern. She is a 4th year B.A. Journalism student at the Polythecnic University of the Philippines.