Minors used as drug couriers should be sent for rehab – De Lima

Published January 18, 2019, 10:31 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Hannah Torregoza

Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Friday urged authorities to ensure the proper rehabilitation of minors who were allegedly used as drug couriers.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), she said, should help send the recently-apprehended minors allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. Agents of PDEA, during a drug operation in Navotas City last Jan. 16, were able to arrest about 28 suspected drug offenders, which included 12 minors aged four to 15 years old, and presented them to the media for photo opportunities.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency escorts children rescued during the raid at Fishport in Navotas, January 16, 2019. (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency escorts children rescued during the raid at Fishport in Navotas, January 16, 2019. (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said law enforcers should recommend the sending of children in conflict with the law or CICLs to reform centers instead of parading them before the media to brag about their presumed accomplishments and earn “brownie points.”

“No individual, much less minors, should be subjected to degrading treatment by the authorities. Children in conflict with the law must still be treated in a way that is consistent with the promotion of their sense of dignity and worth,” said de Lima who chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development.

“Sending these minors to ‘Bahay Pag-Asa’ would allow them to rebuild their lives and teach them the value of following the law, so when they return to the community, they can be useful and law-abiding members of society,” she added.

She pointed out that the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 provides for a comprehensive restorative juvenile justice and welfare system in the country, including intervention program and support youth centers or “Bahay Pag-Asa.”

“Bahay Pag-Asa” is a child-caring reform center that was established, funded, and managed by local government units and licensed and/or accredited non-government organizations (NGOs) precisely to provide short-term residential care for CICLs.

The senator explained parents and mass media play a significant role in ensuring that children stay out of crimes and not exposed to inappropriate publicity.

“Responsible parents are expected to watch out for their children’s actions to ensure full protection of these kids’ rights to survival, protection, development,” she said.

“Media practitioners, on their part, should be critical about the content that they publish, especially involving children, to avoid subjecting individuals to inappropriate and sensationalized publicity,” she added.

De Lima earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 171 urging the Senate to conduct an inquiry into the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 in light of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

President Rodrigo Duterte had blamed the Juvenile Justice Law for the crimes being committed by minors as it allows offenders to be released if they are 15 years old and below.

The said law was established as a mechanism for policy development, coordination, program implementation, and monitoring of children through an inter-agency body. [Hannah L. Torregoza]