OUT of the 114 Bahay Pag-asa that should have been established by Provincial Governments and highly-urbanized cities as mandated by law, there are only 35 operational centers nationwide that offer services for Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL).

This was bared by Akbayan party-list representative Tom Villarin Friday, February 10, during the regional press briefing on the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at Grand Men Seng Hotel.

He said that based on the 2015 evaluation of the Intervention and Rehabilitation Program in Residential Facilities and Diversion Programs for CICL, it shows that there is a weak commitment of the local government units (LGUs) on the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (JJWA), which is one of their reasons in opposing the move to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine years old.

Villarin added that the lack of support of the LGUs affected the delivery of programs for CICL among the 81 provinces and 33 highly-urbanized cities, which are required to implement measures to assist the youngsters to step up prevention, intervention, diversion, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs that would foster basic education, spiritual formation, life, and livelihood skills.

Of the 35, the three centers are operated by Provincial Governments, eight by highly-urbanized cities, three by non-government organizations (NGOs), and 21 are run by other municipalities and cities.

Under Republic Act (RA) 10630 amending RA 9344 JJWWA, Bahay Pag-asa refers to a 24-hour child-caring institution established, funded by LGUs and licensed and/or accredited nongovernment organizations providing short-term residential care for CICL who are above fifteen but below eighteen years of age and are awaiting court disposition of their cases.

It also said that 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 the Department of Social Welfare and Development and adopted by the JJWC.

Villarin attributed the insufficient number of Bahay Pag-asa for CICL to the lack of funds of the National Government to assist and sustain the operation of the center in providing a holistic environment for the young offenders.

Currently, there are 70 children ranging from 12 to 19 years old in Davao City Bahay Pag-asa and based on the data of Regional Women and Children Protection Desk that noted a slight increase of CICL in Davao Region from 1,605 in 2015 to 1,757 last year.

Villarin encouraged the citizens to push their LGUs to uphold the initiative to address the CICL's welfare that would give them the chance to transform their lives and become a productive citizens.