By Hannah Torregoza
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will start requiring all local government units (LGUs) to comply and start the construction or upgrading of “Bahay Pagasa” shelters within their respective provinces or communities in compliance with the present Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the agency will make the rounds to prod local chief executives to build their own rehabilitation centers for children in conflict with the law (CICLs) as part of its efforts to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to discipline the growing number of minors involved in crimes.
“We can direct the LGUs to construct their ‘Bahay Pagasa’, but we need to come up with a standard to ensure uniformity,” Año said during the Senate justice and human rights’ second hearing on the proposal to bring down the minimum age of criminal liability (MACR) from the present 15 to 12 years old.
Año assured the Senate panel, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, that there were sufficient funds for these under the local government support fund and noted that some provincial government have already constructed their own halfway homes using their own budget.
“So we will require all LGUs, starting from the provincial and the highly-urbanized cities—that’s 81 provinces and 141 highly-urbanized cities—to start on the project,” Año said, responding to Gordon’s query.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, primary author of the juvenile justice law and who has been at the receiving end of Duterte’s criticism, suggested to the DILG that it utilize the billions of pesos worth of flood control projects supposedly in the proposed 2019 national budget to finance the completion of these rehabilitation centers.
There are already 63 “Bahay Pagasa” shelters nationwide, existing in the Philippines, but only 55 are operational.
Pressed to explain the time frame for the creation of the centers, Año said, in an interview after the hearing, that the DILG would first conduct an audit of all existing “Bahay Pagasa” shelters, their functionality and statistics.
Año said they will prioritize the creation of “Bahay Pagasa” in municipalities or provinces that experience the most number of crimes.
“But eventually we want all LGUs to have their own ‘Bahay Pagasa’,” Año said, highlighting the need for local government authorities to exercise their authority to help children within their jurisdiction become good and law-abiding citizens.
Año also reiterated the need to have halfway shelters that would not just be reactive but proactive as well.
“Meaning to say we need to construct one even if the child has not yet committed anything. We need to be proactive rather than just making the ‘Bahay Pagasa’ a detention center or building. We can have these centers for counseling sessions,” he said.
Año noted that LGUs already have P10-million, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has P5-million, allotment for the creation of these rehabilitation centers.
But senators agree that additional funding and infrastructure were still needed to fully implement the juvenile justice system.