Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought an immediate review of the implementation of the youth-care facilities, also known as "Bahay Pag-asa," to ensure that children-in-conflict-with-the-law (CICL) are properly treated and rehabilitated.
De Lima said she wants to find out how these 24-hour child-caring institutions are being managed as mandated under Republic Act (RA) No. 9344, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA), as amended under RA No. 10630.
"It is high time to review the status of its implementation and reassess the compliance of local government units and other agencies regarding the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act which has been existing for more than a decade now," she said.
"The government should also reassess whether these 'Bahay Pag-asa' centers live up to its purpose in delivering interventions that would help prevent youth offenders from repeating their offenses once they leave the institution," she added.
In October 2013, Congress passed RA No. 10630 which strengthens the country's juvenile justice system and thereby, amending RA 9344, also known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
Under RA No. 9344 as amended by RA No. 10630, all local government units (LGUs) are required to establish a "Bahay Pag-asa," a 24-hour child-caring institution that will serve as residential care for CICLs who are above 15 but below 18 years old.
Of the 114 Bahay Pag-asa that were required under the law, however, only 58 are operational as of November 2018 and only eight of which were fully compliant with the law, as confirmed by the data from the Child Rights Network (CRN).
In addition, only PhP40 million has been reportedly spent out of the PhP400 million allocated in 2013 to build "Bahay Pag-asa" centers.
Aside from funding issues, De Lima also noted that violence reportedly persists in some "Bahay Pag-asa" centers, citing the case of a 14-year-old boy from Bahay Pag-asa in Mandaluyong City who suffered several bruises after he was punched while asleep.
The lady Senator from Bicol maintained that "Bahay Pag-asa" should serve as a juvenile intervention and support center and not as a breeding ground for outlaws.
"We need to look into this incident and see if there are enough personnel - from social worker, psychologist, and medical doctor -- in every Bahay Pag-asa who can look after the welfare of these children and ensure that they engage in meaningful programs instead of exposing them to more violence," she said.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, maintained that lawmakers should focus on the full and proper implementation of the JJWA and not on lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR).
The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights is expected to recommend the approval of a measure lowering of MACR from 15 to 12 years old minors while its counterpart panel in the House has approved a similar measure.
Source: Senate of the Philippines