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DSWD & juveniles

By: Erik Espina

THE names I spoke with, are better left as “confidential,” while the circumstances and narration of my title are scalding realities of a wandering focus requiring legislative intervention, with the DSWD in a quandary as to what it must do with, what American law enforcement calls, as “juvys.”  

A quick rewind reminds us of the period when Court Judges were granted the authority to “punish” minors and juvenille delinquents (JD) so long as it was determined the child “acted with discernment.” There are also children who are recidivists and hence must be treated as “adults.” Jurisprudence referenced from foreign experience has validated the phenomenon of children being ruled and tried as an “adult” particularly those involved in serious crimes.

The problem then was that law enforcement would detain minors, pending trial, with adult and hardened criminals, due to the lack of “juvenile facilities.” Incarcerating a youth offender at a vulnerable age pending rehabilitation with adults is a bad mix. The introduction of the exempting law on 15-years old and below was precisely a humanitarian conceived intercession.

However, should not the better alternative have been, more youth detention and rehabilitation centers constructed nationwide? To this day, there is legislative resistance by some progressive and bleeding-heart politicians against this Administration’s initiative to increase the age of legal culpability, if not restore it to the tried and tested practice under the old Revised Penal Code?

The duplicity in priorities over youth issues may be gleaned from the 4Ps program to encourage impoverished families to send their kids to school confronted with a yawning divide over building needed facilities for youth offenders. The reality on the ground is DSWD turns-over the latter to identified religious orders with a smile, some rice, sardines, and a good riddance! The DSWD is never heard again after the drop-off to a religious-order saddled with additional burden over their charism for the youth, basic education and tech-voc centers. Same practice is employed by crooked city officials to increase budgets for JDs only to pocket part of the donation.