Juvenile justice overseers educate young offenders on gender sensitivity
By Benilda Recebido
SORSOGON CITY --- The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) Bicol delivered a lecture to at least forty-two (42) Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) during the dialogue and awareness workshop held on Friday, November 24, at the Bicol Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY), here.
The said recipients are residents of the RRCY and have suspended sentences while undergoing rehabilitation.
Republic Act (RA) 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006, defines CICL as a child who is alleged as, accused of, or convicted as having committed an offense under Philippine laws.
The workshop aims to engage the children in an interactive discussion on juvenile justice and rights awareness, making them understand that even CICL have rights to be protected.
Lawyer Lorrain Marcaida, resource speaker from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), emphasized that the implementation of RA 9344 is everyone’s concern. CICL must be assured that injustice will not happen again and the victim should be guided so as not to repeat the offense.
Children who commit crimes should not be punished right away or be sent to prison even if the child is found guilty. Their individual situations must be investigated carefully to determine how the government can help them lead better lives.
These children may be portrayed as criminals, but they are like any other children, just learning about their lives, dreams, and hopes. “They have the right to treatment that promotes their sense of dignity and worth, takes into account their age, and aims at their reintegration into society,” she said.
She pointed out that CICL shall also enjoy the fundamental right to life and identity, family, education, development, food, shelter and leisure. They shall enjoy protection from abuse and violence, a peaceful community, governmental assistance, and expression.
Juvenile justice also includes skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, so that in the end they can successfully be reintegrated into the community, Marcaida said.
Through the workshops, children were able to increase their engagement and enhance their social skills by sharing their personal experiences related to the topic.
Two boys boldly expressed the reasons why their lives were derailed and ended committing crimes – a dysfunctional family, economic difficulties and an environment conducive to delinquencies.
Though they were provided with basic needs and attention at the rehabilitation center, they also expressed missing their parents.
“No one gives me full attention at home, I got hungry, I felt neglected and got the wrong peers who influenced me to use drugs and eventually to robbery. What I longed for, I got here at the center – food, shoes, attention, and I am thankful to them. But then, I still miss my parents, and in the long run would still want to be with them,” said one of the children.
Another CICL shared how choosing wrong peers can make one disrespectful and unmindful of others, leading him to commit a heinous crime.
After the lecture, he said that he now understands that though he may be exempted from criminal liability, he has to be subjected to an intervention program to be guaranteed a brighter future. He added that he realized that it’s never too late to change.
Republic Act 9344 establishes the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old. This implies that individuals between 15 to 18 years old may be held in youth centers and subjected to rehabilitation programs. However, those below 15 years old are not criminally liable but are required to undergo intervention measures.
He also challenged his co-CICL in the center to have a room for change and consider what happened to them as part of life’s challenge. “What is important is we are willing to change for the better and is given another chance,” he added.
Genoveva Barcelon, regional juvenile justice and welfare secretary for Bicol, said the event was the culmination of this year’s observance of the 12th Juvenile Justice and Welfare Consciousness Week.
Barcelon emphasized that the celebration takes place in November, which is also National Children’s Month.
“As this celebration falls on the National Children’s Month, we empower these children by making them aware of the laws that affect them, and educate them of their rights, even if they are in conflict with the law,” said Barcelon.
RRCY Head Lyndra Villareal said, the center is attending to these 42 CICLs with common cases of rape, murder, drugs and robbery.
The center offers various programs such as character-building, group work, life skills, and aftercare sessions facilitated by house parents to help these children improve their social skills and values, with the help of external speakers and facilitators.
“Though we offer habilitation and rehabilitation activities, interactive discussions such as this with speakers and facilitators coming from outside of the center is a great help. The social confidence and values they develop will be useful when they reintegrate in their respective communities,” said Villareal.
Based on the Bicol situational analysis from 2019 to 2021, cases involving children in conflict with the law in the region is decreasing with 221 CICLs in 2019, 122 CICLs in 2020, and 74 CICLs in Bicol in 2021. (BAR/PIA 5 Sorsogon)