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Bahay Pag-asa should be last place to abuse children â CHR
In this photo taken on May 21, 2019, minors being held at a juvenile detention centre rest in one of the quarters in Malolos town, Bulacan province, north of Manila. Officially called "Houses of Hope", proponents in the Philippines say such facilities are places for reformation and education, but critics warn they are underfunded and weakly supervised. Rights' groups say a pending bill to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12, will mean many more children could be held in the nation's overcrowded facilities.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

Bahay Pag-asa should be last place to abuse children — CHR

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - July 25, 2019 - 11:44am

MANILA, Philippines — The shortage of youth homes in the country and the alleged inhuman conditions in these facilities meant to reform and rehabilitate troubled juveniles must be addressed expediently, the Commission on Human Rights said.

CHR made the statement Thursday as a reaction to the Agence France-Presse report that detailed abuses in Bahay Pag-asa centers—child caring institutions built to offer rehabilitation and intervention to children in conflict with the law.

The report told stories of troubled children who experienced physical and sexual abuse in these facilities dubbed by child rights advocates as “hellholes” with subhuman conditions.

“The news regarding alleged abuses, mistreatment and subhuman conditions in Bahay Pag-asa centers is gravely alarming,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said.

She added: “Shelters that are meant to reform children should be the last place that would further victimize them and cultivate negative behaviors in them.”

There are only 58 operational Bahay Pag-asa across the country—well short of the 114 needed nationwide. Only eight facilities have been accredited.

Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, these youth shelters are primarily to hold young offenders aged 15 to 18 and are established and run by local government units.

The government’s Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council earlier lamented that some Bahay Pag-asa centers are worse than prisons due to budget constraints.

‘Lowering of MACR will aggravate situation’

The CHR spokesperson warned that the planned legislation to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility will only worsen these existing problems.

In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives approved the controversial bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old. But the Senate failed to pass its counterpart bill.

The domination of the allies of President Rodrigo is expected to advance his tough-on-crime agenda, which includes the lowering the age of criminal responsibility and restoring death penalty.

De Guia said stressed that the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act must be fully and rigorously implemented instead.

“Children in conflict with the law are victims of circumstances and dark elements in society that take advantage of their vulnerability. Rehabilitation is crucial for their reformation so they can go back to their community and become productive members of society,” she said.

De Guia added: “We remind again the government to take to heart its duty to uphold the welfare of children through policies and actions that genuinely nurture their value and potential, uphold their dignity and help them envision a better future for themselves.”

BAHAY PAG-ASA COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT LOWERING AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY
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