Properly operating Bahay Pag-Asa effective in rehabilitating youth offenders -Gatchalian

Senator Win Gatchalian on Wednesday said that a properly-staffed, properly-funded, and properly-operating Bahay Pag-Asa (BPA) is effective in rehabilitating children in conflict with the law (CICLs).

Gatchalian cited the Bahay Pag-Asa in Valenzuela City, which he says has successfully 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 rehabilitation program," he said.

"Of course, this is not to say that the Bahay Pag-asa is perfect. But the success rate of the Bahay Pag-asa in Valenzuela shows that the program works - that rehabilitation is possible. In fact, we've already done it and are still doing it," he added.

Aside from 449 who have been successfully reintegrated, 70 CICLs in the Valenzuela BPA were transferred to other agencies for further intervention, 19 were endorsed to their respective local government agencies, while eight left the center without permission. Four children were turned-over to the Bureau of Corrections as they were not able to comply with the recommended rehabilitation program.

Another 43 are still under the care and custody of the Bahay Pag-Asa and are completing their rehabilitation programs.

"Kailangan lang talaga nating mas bigyang-pansin ang ating mga Bahay Pag-Asa. We need more constructive and nurturing means than outright imprisonment," Gatchalian said.

"We should strengthen our intervention programs and address the root causes of why CICLs commit offenses," he added.

The lawmaker previously said that strengthening the national BPA network is a better alternative in providing intervention programs for CICLs rather than lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR). He had also urged his colleagues in Congress to allot adequate funding for the construction of Bahay Pag-Asas in the country.

The Bahay Pag-asa ng Valenzuela was constructed and inaugurated in May 2013, during Gatchalian's last term as city mayor. The local government of Valenzuela City funded the construction of the P10-million youth center.

According to data provided by the city government, as of November 15, 2018, a total of 593 CICLs have been admitted to the Valenzuela Bahay Pag-Asa. Of this number, around 86 percent are 16 to below 18 years old while the remaining 14 percent are below 15 years old who are exempted from criminal liability but have to undergo an intervention program in cooperation their respective families or guardians.

Source: Senate of the Philippines