Bohol registers most number of Central Visayas youth offenders in rehab
by Rey Anthony Chiu
Tagbilaran City (13 October) -- BOHOL may rank highest in Central Visayas for the most number of children in conflict with the law (CICL) but that doesn’t mean the province has the most number of offenders, says Catherine dela Calsada of the Bohol Crisis and Intervention Center (BCIC) at the weekly Kapihan sa PIA.
A DSWD data which dela Calsada read over the forum said, since 2003-2006, a Cebu-based Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) youth rehabilitation center, the only one serving Central Visayas has 164 Boholano children, the largest from any province.
“It means there is already high level of awareness on the juvenile justice and welfare act among the Boholanos, added Sangguniang Panlalawigan Board Member Godofreda Tirol during the one hour broadcasted forum set as a public update on the situation of CICL.
With the degree of awareness, victims who used to be alone, now realized there is the BCIC that they can shelter them. The same is true with police officers, who take the offenders in custody.
The BCIC was initially designed to shelter 30 women and children in distress, those who seek immediate help from physical harm by offenders who are still on the loose. Now, the center has temporarily acted as a halfway house for CICL when no LGU here has constructed such a center, BCIC project manager dela Calsada said.
With President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signing Republic Act 9344 into law in May this year, youthful offenders; basically victims of parental neglect and inability to cope with the distressing times are now given “special treatment” for such circumstance.
The law states that 15 year-old offenders and below are exempted from criminal liability. Furthermore, those over 15 but are below 18-year-old offenders are assessed of criminal liability according to their degree of discernment in the crime commission.
Finally, CICL are “detained” as the last resort. They are to be released on recognizance to parents or relatives, recommended for immediate mediation and diversion and made to undergo psychological sessions to effectively rejoin the society.
And to the alarming Bohol position among Central Visayas provinces, BM Tirol explains, “It doesn’t mean that there are no youthful offenders in other places.
In Cebu, you could still see youthful offenders sniffing rugby by the sidewalk. If they are accosted and given the legl treatment they deserve, they should be in halfway houses or rehabilitation centers, Tirol points.
The law provides that youthful offenders are not arrested but taken into custody upon initial contact and turned over to the DSWD. After DSWD social workers’ assessment on levels of discernment, the offenders are then entrusted to parents or direct relatives for immediate diversion program.
The diversion program contains a package of services that the offender would undergo to be fully adjusted when it would be time for them to rejoin the mainstream, dela Calsada points out.
The law also mandates local government units to apportion funds in their budget to construct the rehabilitation center where the kiddie victims could be made to follow their diversion programs.
Unlike the usual detention centers, the rehabilitation center mandated by the law should not resemble in any way a jail, the law provides.
The law also states that the Center shall be funded in a 30-30-30 sharing scheme of the national, provincial and municipal governments. (PIA) [top]