De Lima: Send minors used as alleged drug couriers to ‘Bahay Pag-Asa’

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To ensure proper rehabilitation and prevention from engaging in another crime, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to help send recently-apprehended minors allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade in a reform center for children in conflict with the law (CICLs).

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said the authorities should recommend the sending of the CICLs in “Bahay Pag-Asa” instead of parading them before the media to brag about their presumed accomplishments and earn “brownie points.”

“No individual, much less minors, should be subjected to degrading treatment by the authorities. Children in conflict with the law must still be treated in a way that is consistent with the promotion of their sense of dignity and worth,” she said.

“Sending these minors in ‘Bahay Pag-Asa’ would allow them to rebuild their lives and teach them the value of following the law, so when they return in the community, they can be useful and law-abiding members of the society,” she added.

During a drug operation by PDEA agents in Navotas City last Jan. 16, about 28 suspected drug offenders, which included 12 minors aged four to 15 years old, were arrested and paraded to the media for photo-ops.

The Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 requires the need for a comprehensive restorative juvenile justice and welfare system in the country, including intervention program and support youth centers or “Bahay Pag-Asa.”

A child-caring reform center, “Bahay Pag-Asa” was established, funded and managed by local government units and licensed and/or accredited non-government organizations to provide short-term residential care for CICLs.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, pointed out that parents and mass media also play a significant role in ensuring that children stay out of crimes and not exposed to inappropriate publicity.

“Responsible parents are expected to watch out for their children’s actions to ensure full protection of these kids’ rights to survival, protection, development,” she said.

“Media practitioners, on their part, should be critical about the content that they publish, especially involving children, to avoid subjecting individuals to inappropriate and sensationalized publicity,” she added.

In an effort to protect CICLs from violence or abuse, De Lima earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 171 inquiring into the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 which establishes a mechanism for policy development, coordination, program implementation, and monitoring of children through an inter-agency body. The lady Senator from Bicol also filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1348, which seeks to prohibit corporal punishment and all other forms of “humiliating and degrading” acts imposed on children and SB No. 195, which seeks to impose stiffer penalties on those who involve children in their criminal activities.

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