Anchor: Henry Omaga-Diaz
Juvenile Delinquents: These children put up a face that brings fear and a sense of defiance. In return, society denounces them with intense aversion, forgetting that they are children who are just in need of greater guidance.
Formally, a Child in Conflict with the Law (CICL) is a person who at the time of the commission of the offense is below eighteen years old but not less than 15 years and one day old.
In this Krusada episode, Henry Omaga Diaz posited imperative questions: Are the Children in Conflict with the Law considered as young criminals or are they actually victims of society? Should they undergo the Criminal Justice System like the rest? How does the government respond to children who have committed serious crimes?
More importantly, what can we do to help them?
According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there are more than 2,600 juvenile delinquency cases reported in 2009. A year later, the number reduced to 1,200. However, DSWD claims that there are still many unreported cases in the country.
Restorative Justice for Youth Offenders
“Gab” always takes off his shirt and shows off his tattoos for everyone to see the signs of his ‘strength’; when in truth, he only had himself inked out of peer pressure.
|Henry Omaga-Diaz interviews Gab and his friend
At 16 years old, he has gone in and out of rehabilitation centres; even the city jail once, for committing burglary, marijuana and solvent abuse and theft numerous times.
Every night, he hangs out with his group of fellow youth offenders to smoke and pickpocket. At three in the morning, they break into houses. In three to five minutes, he says he could steal money, mobile phones and jeweleries. He had constant practice since ten years old.
His biggest single loot was P3,000. It is more than enough to buy some solvent or marijuana for him and his friends. The ‘one-day millionaire’ uses the instant cash to buy drugs that ‘help them forget their problems’.
He says that the ‘Rock’, rehabilitation centres for youth offenders, could not help him. He does not like it there despite admitting that it allows him to eat well, bathe and study. He comes back to ‘normal’ every time he comes out—how he prefers to live.
|Gab flaunts his tatoos on the streets so passers by would fear him
Aurora Flores of the Philippines Mental Health Association in Dumaguete believes that youth offenders have mental health issues and reiterates that such is not just the absence of mental illness.
The concept of right and wrong among youth offenders is vague or erroneous; leading to their low self-control. In the long run, their values become distorted, allowing them to commit crimes without feeling guilty.
Central Visayas has the most number of CICL cases since 2009 according to DSWD. Two in the list of youth offenders in Region 7 are “Troy”, found guilty of frustrated homicide at age 17; and “Anjo”, committed arson at eight years old.
Troy played with toy guns as a child and accidentally fired a pistol at his uncle’s enemy during the physical conflict that involved the adults. On the other hand, Anjo was bullied and made to follow orders of older children which led him to burn a local chapel.
Brenda Vigo, Executive Director of the Council for the Welfare of Children, says that these children are victims of dysfunctional families, communities and poverty. That is why they should not be treated as criminals and be allowed to undergo the Criminal Justice System.
Republic Act 9344 prohibits imprisonment as it will only subject the children into more harm than good. A Restorative Justice System is observed where their personal issues can be discussed and conflict can be resolved. Through it, a child is said to realize that what he did is wrong without causing him to rebel more.
There are 16 rehabilitation centres in the Philippines at present.
Delinquency Prevention Program
The law states that local government units (LGU) should allot budget for homes and counselors as part of the Delinquency Prevention Program, like in the example of Bayawan City, Negros Oriental. However, may LGUs do not adhere to this.
In cases like these, non-government foundations like PREDA Foundation, Inc. respond to the problem. Under the leadership of Father Shay Cullen, the New Dawn Boys Home reintegrates values among the children for them to shun away from delinquency.
The importance of re-acceptance of family and society is also addressed.
In the New Dawn Boys Home, rehabilitation starts with the Emotional Release Therapy to resolve a child’s problems and pains. It is gradually followed by sports activities and skills training such as carpentry, mechanics, agriculture and computer literacy.
All Hope Lost?
“Gab” continues to blame his only family—his aunt Susan—who took him from his parents who are both drug addicts with the hope of saving the child from having the same fate.
On the other hand, Susan blames Gab’s barkada of being a bad influence; making it hard for the child to get out of the life he now lives. She has started to lose faith that Gab can still change.
While he dreams to have his own family, Gab says that he wants to die early and does not believe he will reach 30 years old. He further said that he has lost all hope in his future. November 17, 2011