Protecting our children has always been our people’s mandate. It’s instinctive, humane and quite frankly, common sense. But times are changing. Poverty is worsening and along with this unfortunate plight is the diminishing innocence of our youth.
According to the Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) fact sheet from UNICEF, over 10,500 children were arrested every year from 1995 to 2000. Most of their crimes included petty theft and sniffing solvent. UNICEF advocates the release of these children from jail because the environment is just plain harmful.
Okay, what about cases of rape, homicide and burglary? Truth is, sometimes, instead of being the ones to save, they are the ones we should be wary of.
Just this weekend, a house in our neighborhood (Pilar Village in Las Pinas to be specific) was burglarized by 10 juveniles. The kids worked their way from the roof and ransacked the house, one valuable at a time. Corelle sets and kitchen knives were disposed of rather quickly, selling at P300 per set at a nearby junk shop. Oh, and I will not forget to mention that they literally took a shit on the living room floor.
A concerned neighbor called security. The children ran off, one got caught. Trapped, the kid snitched on the others.
Pulling out one kid at a time from the squatter’s area, the police brought them to the station to turn them over to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Okay. But when DSWD said they will only hold the kids for a week and then they are free to go, not okay.
Even one of the juvenile’s parents admitted that these kids roam the village every night looking for prospective houses to rob. The police also said they have arrested these kids multiple times.
So when these kids commit crimes that society claims they are too young to be punished for, who do we oblige to pay? Are we supposed to just let it pass because we, being the adults, are expected to let them outgrow their offensive ways? Are we really teaching them to change or are we tolerating their criminal urges?
Just this year, there was an amendment in the law claiming to strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. One of its strongest projects is the establishment of Bahay Pag-Asa which is a rehabilitation center for children who commit crimes. They will stay there for a period of time (apparently a week) and then get reunited with their families. There are 10 constructed sites so far and another P400 million to construct more.
The DSWD website states: “The establishment of an Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (IJISC) for children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Bahay Pag-Asa is one of the key enhancements in the law.”
Is there statistical proof that this system works?
I might as well ask my kid to do the crime for me since he won’t get punished and I most definitely will not be too. One cannot defend this system by continually claiming the so-called innocence of children when they are apparently being molded to become problems of society.
Let me stress out that we, law-abiding citizens, should feel safe in our own homes. When we do not feel safe, due to juveniles or not, the system is obviously flawed. No one is afraid of a law that’s not being implemented or justice that is not being served.
These kids have skills, trained to burglarize and terrorize citizens who are blindly protecting them. This situation is wrong, unlawful and unjust. Let us acknowledge what’s in front of us…these children are not innocent. They have been exposed to crimes, have done criminal acts, yet they are conveniently exempt from any criminal charge. They are not to be protected but prosecuted.
One week in DSWD is nothing. How many times have they been there already?