On the busy streets, they are wandering. As we sleep soundly and peacefully on our comfortable beds, they are drowning their selves on alcoholic beverages. We demand for leisure; they need attention. We receive appreciation; they receive judgments. Are you aware who they are?
“These children lack guidance; let us look at them with understanding because they are victims of circumstances”, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman expressed.
Children in conflict with the law refer to children below 18 years old who are alleged, or accused of committing actions against the law.
In La Trinidad, Benguet, the Women and Children’s Protection Desk (WCPD) recorded 112 cases of CICL in 2014 and 94 in 2015. Petty theft and physical injury ranked the top most juvenile offenses. Petty thefts are usually committed through snatching or pickpocketing of valuables. Most were arrested for physical injury due to their involvement in bars or street fights.
Broken families, lack of parental guidance and discipline, maltreatment, and poverty were pointed as the factors contributing for the occurrence of CICL in the municipality
“Proper guidance of parents are needed to at least lessen the CICL cases”, says SPO1 Aida Esteban, chief of La Trinidad WCPD.
The Second Chance
“CICL should be treated as individuals with problems who need help, not as criminals,” Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) primer on child welfare services elaborated.
In addition from the article posted by Rappler, DSWD stressed that CICL deserve a second chance to become productive members of the society.
In time, president-elect Rodrigo Duterte announced that if minors were caught roaming during curfew hours (10:00 pm to 5:00 am), the parents, instead of the children, will be imprisoned.
However, Bahay Tuluyan, an organization with 29 years of experience working with children in need of special protection strongly disagrees on Duterte’s plan. The group stated that jailing the parents will cause trauma to the minors and will further damage broken families.
In contrast, Esteban agreed on Duterte’s plan.
“Parents are responsible for their children. It is their duty to look after them if they are not home when it’s already late at night,” Esteban added.
“The municipality lacks rehabilitation or detention centers for CICL, so we are sharing with the Baguio City’s facility. Despite the various intervention programs, there are still who keep committing the same offenses” chief Esteban revealed.
The graduate study of Virgilio C. Ablaza, a Masters of Public Administration graduate of Benguet State Univeristy, titled “The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (RA 9344): An evaluation on the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System in La Trinidad, Benguet, supported Esteban’s statement and added that the municipality has only a center for Child Care for children who are abandoned and are ready to be adopted.
On the other hand, the study showed that the other problems in the municipality is the non-establishment of a barangay and local council for the protection of children, although there are different committees established like the Committee on Youth and Committee on Children.
Further, on the part of the DSWD personnel, Ablaza pointed out that they face serious problems like, lack of establishment of community-based programs that focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of children, and lack of support from non-government organizations and religious institutions.
On the other hand, one of the problems of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is that they lack knowledge and skills in dealing with CICL. Also, they lack law enforcement officers who are trained to handle child related cases. Lastly, they lack gender sensitivity training of officers.
On the graduate study of Romie T. Labasnog, Jr., a Masters of Public Administration graduate of Benguet State University, titled “Interventions of La Trinidad Philippine National Police on Crimes against Women and Children” showed that on the part of the PNP, they conduct lectures at different schools in La Trinidad for the awareness of pupils on laws concerning them; do case conferences on children cases; and organize seminars, trainings, programs, activities and meetings.
On the other hand, Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD)conducts counseling, and lectures on values formation and anger management.
To address the issues of CICL cases in the municipality, Ablaza recommends Local Government Units (LGUs) to give emphasis on CICL cases, and schools offering Criminal Justice Education to come up with a new syllabus on their course curriculum to enhance students’ knowledge regarding RA 9344.
“As parents, we have to teach our kids on what is wrong and right while they are still young. Then, when they grow up, we have to talk and ask them their problems so we can advise them,” says Randolf Sabado, a parent residing in La Trinidad, Benguet.
Esteban also calls the attention of the community to help in counseling CICL due to the fact that the MSWD cannot accommodate all of them due to the lack of staff.
Indeed, discipline starts at home. What children see from their parents, they tend to imitate it.