The child in conflict with the law (CICL)
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part II of “Empowering our Children, Not Oppressing Them”)

Western media is more open in its direct assault on the institution of the family, especially due to the continuous increase in divorce rates and consequent negligence of children. Home can be a “potentially dangerous arena.” In media’s presentation of them, children have metamorphosed from sweet and innocent to inherently evil demons expressing the lower standards of mores in society. This negative personification of children has caused a retreat from full support of children’s rights. The government and the media have preferred to promote policies to protect the community from children.

Critiquing how CRC was carried out in the Philippines

The 10 members of the Geneva CRC (or Treaty of the Child) had been investigating closely how different countries had implemented their commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child between 1990 when this was signed until 1995. State parties to the CRC are bound every five years (2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015?) to review with the Geneva International CRC Committee how we have truly developed and applied the CRC concepts nationwide. Specific queries reveal the extent of the problems. Atty. Pais of the CRC investigating committee commented that the Philippines provides piecemeal solutions in her five years of implementation of the Plan of Action for the Child since many disjointed projects to protect the child were enumerated such as Bantay Bata Hotline, Munting Bayani Awards, Magna Carta of Students, and National Council of Street Children.

She continued her queries: “Why is the report focused on the persecution of children? By now, new legislation, as inspired by the CRC should be optimistic.” The committee sharply saw through our faulty implementation of the treaty when Congresswoman Leonor Ines Luciano reported that the juvenile courts have not been restored. This has resulted in very serious problems such as those referred to by former Justice Luciano, “The minor offenders are becoming younger and younger…”

DECS Usec. Erlinda Pefianco noted that there seem to be adequate Philippine laws but their application is not fulfilled. For example with the Truancy Law one would think that the numerous school dropouts who are mostly from the lower grade school should be “arrested” and made to go to school, but there are no truant police officers. Usec. Pefianco also cited the trauma suffered by children from corporal punishment imposed by parents and teachers. Injuries range from “very serious to less serious and minor injuries.” The invisible but worse damage is when the child creates “learning barriers to Math, Science or Language” within himself as a defense mechanism. Soon, he would increase the number of dropouts who end up corrupted in the streets, usually as vagrants or drug addicts.

The public information campaign regarding the 1995 Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Three press conferences were held upon the return of former DSWD Secretary Corazon Alma de Leon and her Philippine delegation from Geneva in January 1995.

Regional workshops were held from north to south of the country. The first three were held in Cebu, Davao and General Santos. A total of 75 representatives came. They included representatives of the government agencies like Office of Northern Cultural Communities, Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Labor and Employment, as well as media like DZSO “Bombo” Radyo. There were 25 attendees for the Pampanga seminar held at the Plow and Harrow Restaurant while there were 50 attendees for the La Union seminar held at the Oasis Hotel. Major participants were Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria and Atty. Annie Sunga of the Ateneo Law School, Ruth Leano of UNICEF (who alternates with Dr. Teresa Stuart, UNICEF social mobilization officer) the local DSWD director, Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) director Divina Caalim and myself.

How different societies have developed their commitments to children’s rights

In England, the Children’s Legal Centre campaigns and advises children about their rights. It lobbies and engages in educational work, which significantly helped in advocating teenagers’ participation in decision-making processes. Justice for Children and Family is another pressure group. Esther Rantzen’s Childwatch television program became nationally popular, leading to the establishment of Childline in 1986. In 1914, Eglantyne Jebb established the Save the Children Fund International.

Meanwhile, the 1993 survey, America’s Children at Risk, of the American Bar Association cited that 24 percent of American preschool children live in impoverished families. Poverty is not confined to slum areas or ethnic groups but everywhere. The high divorce rates augment the number of single parent families.

Evaluation of rehabilitation program in residential facilities for children in conflict with the law (CICL)

In 2006, the Philippines adopted the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (RA 9344). RA 9344 and its amendment, RA 10630, established as comprehensive juvenile justice and welfare system in the country. In 2014, UNICEF commissioned an independent evaluation to assess how the center-based rehabilitation programs and diversion programs contribute to the overall objectives of juvenile justice and welfare administration in the Philippines.

Two considerable evidences show that most programs provide an enabling environment for the rehabilitation and reintegration of CICL. Most CICL are able to continue their formal education schooling through the programs in which they participate. Some CICL are able to attend vocational training programs. Interviews with parents and children confirm changes in the behavior of the CICL in the programs.

Several factors are identified as negatively affecting the rehabilitation and reintegration of CICL in a significant way, which can turn into facilitating factors if handled properly. They include: 1) the delayed court proceedings, 2) the insufficient capacity of juvenile justice actors, e.g. social workers, police, prosecutors, and judges, and 3) the weak commitment from the LGU, which has significantly affected the implementation of programs for CICL at the local level.

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