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P2.5 billion fund for juvenile homes pushed
In a letter to Senate committee on finance chairperson Sen. Loren Legarda, Drilon emphasized the need for the construction, operation and maintenance of Bahay Pag-asa nationwide after it was found out that only 55 centers have been constructed since Republic Act 9344 was enacted in 2006.
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P2.5 billion fund for juvenile homes pushed

(The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon yesterday pushed for the allocation of an additional P2.5 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development budget for the construction and maintenance of Bahay Pag-asa or rehabilitation center facilities for children in conflict with the law.

In a letter to Senate committee on finance chairperson Sen. Loren Legarda, Drilon emphasized the need for the construction, operation and maintenance of Bahay Pag-asa nationwide after it was found out that only 55 centers have been constructed since Republic Act 9344 was enacted in 2006.

Of the 55, less than half are operational.

“The law is reformative in nature and to achieve its objective, it requires the establishment of Bahay Pag-asa in all provinces and urbanized and chartered cities in the country,” Drilon said. 

But it was found out that there is zero budget under the proposed 2019 spending outlay being heard by the bicameral conference committee for the construction of youth rehabilitation centers, Drilon noted.

The construction and maintenance of Bahay Pag-asa, according to Drilon, is left to local government units, which failed in their obligations under the law. 

“We need to provide more funding support for the operation of Bahay Pag-asa. This is the key to a more effective implementation of the law instead of putting billions of pesos in ‘farm-to-pocket roads’ or dredging, which is only prone to corruption. We should put the budget in something that is needed for the hope of our youth,” he said.

Drilon earlier said he sees nothing wrong with the current law, underscoring that the problems lie in its implementation.

“Dismal is the term insofar as the implementation of the law is concerned. It is because of the poor implementation of the law that it failed to realize its full potential. This is the area that the Congress, particularly the Senate, should focus on,” he said. 

Drilon’s proposal came after the committee on justice and human rights endorsed the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 12.

Drilon, an ex-officio member of the committee, did not sign the report.

Lowering the minimum age of criminal liability would only increase the number of children locked up in horrible detention facilities in the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.

Carlos Conde, HRW researcher, said legislators should drop the proposed law and refocus their energies in reforming existing government facilities for children or replacing them with better options.

“If Congress passes the bill lowering the age of criminal liability, they will be throwing many more Filipino children into a broken and debilitating system,” Conde said.

Conde said HRW visited in June last year a Bahay Pag-asa in Manila and found it poorly run and maintained.

“Water from the toilet leaked to the floors where dozens of children were sleeping, rust covered fenced cages in which children were locked up throughout the day, ventilation was poor and many of the children had clear signs of skin infections, suggesting poor diet and sanitation,” Conde noted.

Conde added that lowering the age of criminal responsibility would be contrary to the Philippines’ obligations as a state party to the UN’s International Convention on the Rights of the Child. – With Paolo Romero, Helen Flores

BAHAY PAG-ASA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT
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