Archdiocese of Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David says some detention centers for children are "worse than cages for animals"
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Child detention centers worse than animal cages — Caloocan bishop
Ryan Macasero (Philstar.com) - February 15, 2019 - 7:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of the Diocese of Kalookan said Thursday that shelters built for children in conflict with the law were “worse than cages for animals."

“Believe me, our house for dogs live in far better conditions,” he was quoted in CBCP News on Thursday. 

David is the Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. 

READ: CBCP breaks silence on Duterte's tirades: We must learn to be brave 

The church's position on criminal responsibility was published in a CBCP letter last month, addressing the president's constant verbal attacks on the Catholic Church.

“There is no way we can call ourselves a civilized society if we hold children in conflict with the law criminally liable,” the letter said. 

The statement said that from the "perspective of mercy," being civilized is not only about advancements in technology and infrastructure “but about being more humane to the poor." 

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 8858 on the third and final reading last month, lowering the age of criminal liability to 12, from the original proposed age of 9. 

READ: House OKs bill lowering criminal responsibility to 12 on final reading

Lawmakers clarified that children would be confined at Bahay Pag-asa centers, which are youth care facilities mandated by law to offer rehabilitation and intervention to children in conflict with the law.

The proponents of the measure insisted it was filed with the intention to reform children and not punish them, as well as to protect them from being used by criminal syndicates.

While the House has already passed the measure, the Senate has yet to pass its version, although it also agrees with pegging the age of criminal responsibility to 12.

READ: Senate fails to pass bill on age of criminal responsibility

“There is no way we can call ourselves a civilized society if we hold children in conflict with the law criminally liable,” David said.

Tricia Oco, executive director of the government's Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council, testified at the Senate last month that some Bahay Pag-asa centers have “subhuman conditions” due to budget constraints.

“They lack the minimum staff requirement; they even lack food for children. Some of the Bahay Pag-asa that we saw are worse than prisons. They don’t have programs, beds and cabinets,” Oco told the Senate committee on justice.

Last month, the clergy responded to an argument used in the House of Representatives, equating the age a child receives their first communion to the age of discernment. 

“So many people say that ages nine to 12, wala pang discernment (have no discernment). Majority of Filipinos are Catholics, my question is how old is a Catholic when they take their first communion?” Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. (Negros Oriental) asked during his arguments in favor of the controversial bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility, which passed in the House of Representatives on third reading. 

“As far as the Church is concerned, there are two factors that define the age of the reason," Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo told Philstar.com in an interview. "Primarily, it's so they can distinguish this is not ordinary bread, but the body of Christ,”

He said understanding what is a sin and is not is also a function as confession is a requirement for Communion. "But it does not mean they are already capable of committing a 'mortal sin,'" he clarified.

In the Catholic theology a "mortal sin" is one that can lead to damnation if one does not repent before death. 

READ: Manila bishop says age of reason not same as discernment

“Sa batas 'di pwede sila mag trabaho, 'di sila pwede magkasal, 'di sila pwede pumirma ng kontrata (Under the law, they can’t work, they can’t marry, they can’t sign a contract),” Pabillo said. 

The measures on lowering the age of criminal responsibility were introduced in the Congress months after President Rodrigo Duterte began speaking about his wish that the Juvenile Justice Act — which pegs the age of criminal responsibility at 15 —  should be amended. 

BISHOPS CBCP LOWERING AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY VIRGILIO DAVID
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