One year after the signing of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 10630 or an “Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines,” the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) urges local government units to establish a ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ for children in conflict with the law (CICL) in their respective jurisdictions.

As provided in the amended Section 49, “Each province and highly-urbanized city…shall be responsible for building, funding, and operating a ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ within their jurisdiction following the standards that will be set by DSWD and adopted by the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC).”

In June last year, DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman and members of the JJWC signed the IRR of RA 10630, and this was witnessed by representatives from non-government organizations (NGOs) and members of local government units (LGUs).

A ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ is a 24-hour child-caring institution that offers short term residential care for CICL who are 1) above 15, but less than 18 years of age, and awaiting court disposition; 2) above 12 to 15 years of age who committed serious crime with commitment order issued by the court; 3) above 12 to 15 years of age who are repeat offenders; and 4) above 12 to below 18 years of age who are considered to be neglected, abandoned, or abused.

The establishment of an Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (IJISC) for CICL who are under the minimum age of criminal responsibility in ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ is one of the key enhancements in the law.

Under the law, the ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ is managed by a multi-disciplinary team composed of a social worker, a psychologist/mental health professional, a medical doctor, an educational guidance counsellor, and a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC). They will work on the individualized intervention plan with the child and the child’s family.

To date, there are 19 ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ located in 18 LGUs in nine regions of the country.  Of these, 13 are operational, four have been completed but not yet operational, while two have ceased operations.

Pioneering LGU

Sec. Soliman cited Marikina City for being one of those LGUs that have established their ‘Bahay Pag-asa,’ which is called Marikina Youth Home, in compliance to then RA 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice Welfare Act”.

The Marikina Youth Home was inaugurated on July 29, 2013.

Berlyn Tampuhan, one of the social workers at the Marikina City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), said that the youth home currently provides temporary shelter to 54 residents – seven girls and 47 boys.  The girls stay at the second floor while the boys stay at the first floor of the building.

Resembling more of a home than a detention center, the Marikina Youth Home has amenities to respond to the children’s basic needs such as clean bedrooms, comfort rooms, a kitchen, a library and study room, and recreational facilities.

“The children consider us their household members,” Berlyn said.

The Marikina City LGU was able to build the facility out of the P25 million given to the city government by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) when they were awarded with the Seal of Good Housekeeping in 2012.

Marikina City Mayor Del De Guzman is happy that the city already has a facility that caters to the welfare of CICL.

True to its name, the center inspires youngsters to start their journey to a reformed life. Through various services provided, they are being equipped with the necessary skills in preparation for their eventual reintegration to their families and communities.

The LGU of Marikina has partnered with TESDA to conduct skills training. To date, the children are undergoing trainings on computer technology and bartending. The social workers also teach the girls home management, cooking, and baking.

The children also engage in sports, such as basketball, and spiritual enhancement activities, which include group sharing and bible studies as part of their rehabilitation.

With these provisions at the center, the kids have a chance to live normal lives.

Hopes and dreams

Berlyn narrated that like many adolescents, the youngsters at the center also aspire for a fuller life. They talked about their hopes and dreams of finishing their studies, getting good jobs, and helping their families.

They also realized that transformation has to come from within, and that they can achieve positive change through determination and perseverance.

Nica, 18, admitted that she has a two year-old baby boy.

“Pag-alis ko dito, gusto kong makatapos ng pag-aaral upang mapalaki ko nang maayos ang aking anak (When I leave the center, I want to finish my studies so I can raise my child well),” she said.

“Maraming naitulong ang mga social workers dito sa amin (The social workers here have helped us a lot),” she added.

Elma, 18, an Ambassadress of the Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines (PYAP) last year, affirmed Nica’s statement.

“Marami akong natutunan dito sa ‘Bahay Pag-asa,’ katulad ng pagluluto at iba pang gawaing bahay, sa matiyagang pagtuturo ng mga social workers (I have learned a lot here in ‘Bahay Pag-asa,’ such as cooking and other household chores, thanks to the social workers who patiently taught us),” she related.

Gina, 18, narrated that she ran away from home.

Lagi kasing nag-aaway ang mga magulang ko. Gusto ko ring makapasok sa college at magtrabaho sa call center para makatulong sa pamilya ko (My parents constantly quarrel.  I also want to go to college and to work in a call center so I can help my family),” Gina added.

Helen, 17, who was accused of taking drugs, claimed she learned how to do chores at ‘Bahay Pag-asa.’  She plans to go to college and help her family.

On the other hand, Mina, 15, who is the youngest of the girls, wants to be a social worker “para matulungan ko ang mga kabataang napapariwara at napapagbintangan (So I can help young people who went astray and those who were unjustly accused),” she passionately stated.

Mina and her cousin, Miriam, claimed they were wrongly accused of taking drugs.

Residents of Mindanao, the cousins came to Manila believing that they could land a job. The police raided the house they were staying in at that time and found drugs.

Being minors, the cousins were turned over to the Local Social Welfare and Development Office (LSWDO), and brought to stay at the ‘Bahay Pag-asa.’

On the other hand, most of the boys were accused of using illegal drugs, and one of them was accused of rape.

Jerry, 16, said, “Nasira ang buhay ko dahil sa tropa (My life was ruined because of my gang).”

Determined to succeed in life, the boy enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) so that he may continue his studies.  Implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd), ALS is a parallel learning system that provides a practical option aside from the existing formal instruction. When one does not have or cannot access formal education in schools, ALS is an alternate or substitute. It includes both the non-formal and informal sources of knowledge and skills.

Jerry’s desire to pursue his education was shared by Jomari, 17, who was accused of raping his girlfriend.

Berlyn proudly shared that Jomari took and passed the assessment skills administered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Make life right for children

Intensifying the programs and services implemented at the ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ is one step forward to respond better to the evolving needs of CICL, thereby ensuring their holistic development towards a brighter future.

Sec. Soliman appealed to all sectors of society to give CICL a second chance at life since they are also victims and must be given all the help they need so they may be productive, contributing members of the country. ###