P1-B ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ funds allotted in 2019 budget: Sotto

MANILA A total of PHP1 billion has been allocated in the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to fund the construction of "Bahay Pag-asa" centers, or the rehabilitation facilities for children in conflict with the law (CICLs), Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday.

Sotto, however, said he will seek President Rodrigo R. Duterte's help to address the constraints particularly the required counterpart fund from local government units (LGUs) that may hamper the construction of these halfway homes.

The juvenile justice and welfare law mandates the LGUs concerned to provide their counterpart share equivalent to the national government contribution of PHP5 million per rehabilitation center.

"I'll ask for a meeting with PRRD together with (Budget) Secretary (Benjamin) Diokno, Senator Ping (Lacson) before or even after the President signs the GAA (General Appropriations Act). I'm sure we'll be able to resolve the issue on 'Bahay Pag-asa'," Sotto told reporters in a text message.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said a properly-staffed, properly-funded, and properly-operating "Bahay Pag-Asa" is effective in rehabilitating CICLs.

He cited the success rate of the "Bahay Pag-Asa" in Valenzuela City, which has reformed and reintegrated more than 400 CICLs after they were admitted to the rehabilitation center in the five years the center has been operating.

"Out of 550 CICLs rehabilitated at the Valenzuela 'Bahay Pag-Asa' from 2013 to 2018, around 82 percent or 449 individuals were successfully reintegrated to their respective families and communities after completion of the rehabilitation program," he said.

Gatchalian stressed the need to strengthen the intervention programs and address the root causes of why CICLs commit offenses.

Senate Bill No. 2198 or An Act Strengthening the Youth Social Welfare Programs and Extending the Scope of Reformation and Rehabilitation of Children in Conflict with the Law, puts the DSWD in charge of the construction, funding, and operations of "Bahay Pag-asa" centers.

The proposal transfers the responsibility of the LGUs to fund and manage these facilities to the social welfare department.

The allocations necessary for building, funding, and operating the 'Bahay Pag-asa' shall be included in the budget of the DSWD in the annual General Appropriations Act, the bill read.

The bill requires every Bahay Pag-asa to contain such facilities as gyms, libraries and vocational-technical training shops.

There shall also be programs for alternative learning geared towards values formation, cultural awareness, reading, and skills development.

Children who do not pose a risk to the community may be allowed to attend schools outside the Bahay Pag-asa. They could be released to their parents, foster parents or guardians only on order by the court and after a comprehensive study by the local DSWD officer. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency