By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III has called for a legislative inquiry on the supposed failure of local government units (LGUs) to build “Bahay Pag-asa” centers and on claims that existing facilities for delinquent children operate under “subhuman conditions.”
Pimentel filed Senate Resolution No. 1000 recently as he sought for an investigation on the lack of Bahay Pag-asa centers in the country, which floated amid moves in Congress to lower the minimum age of criminal liability (MACR).
In the measure, he urged Congress to “first” look into the failure of the government in its mandate to build rehabilitation facilities for children in conflict with the law (CICL), before they discuss a “measure that will lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility and potentially rob Filipino children of their youthful innocence.”
In filing the resolution last January 23, the senator noted that the Republic Act 10630, which strengthened the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of the Philippines (RA 9344) mandates each of the 81 provinces and 143 highly-urbanized cities in the country to build halfway houses for CICL within their jurisdiction.
The law, he added, appropriated P400 million for the construction of Bahay Pag-asa centers with high incidence of CICL, which the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council would identify. The law also authorized the national government to allot P5 million per rehabilitation center as well as the concerned LGU.
“Despite the law providing for adequate funding to ensure ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ centers are built, there are reportedly only 58 facilities nationwide, miserably below the requirement of the law,” Pimentel said in his resolution, citing recent congressional hearings on the proposed lowering of the MACR from 15 to 12 years old.
He also mentioned reports on the alleged “subhuman conditions” in Bahay Pag-asa and other resource persons lamenting that these were “worse than prisons.”
Despite Pimentel’s appeal, the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, led by Sen. Richard Gordon, on Wednesday, already endorsed for plenary approval the Senate Bill 2198, which seeks to lower the age of MACR to 12 years old and at the same time, strengthen youth social welfare programs and the rehabilitation of CICL.
Pimentel was not among the 11 senators who signed the committee’s report on the matter.