THE growing number of children in conflict with the law (CICL) is a societal problem that threatens the very foundation of a nation's future.

“Republic Act 10630 is a republic act which exempts the children in conflict with the law in their criminal liabilities that’s why we continue to do our best in City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) to help and guide minors who are involved in robbery and any other crimes through proper counseling,” June Darvin, CSSDO in-charge for Older Persons, said.

Purok 4D Barangay 23-C, Isla Verde Boulevard in Davao City under village captain Alimodin Usman Al Hadj is a community consisting of Maranaos, Christians, and Badjaos.

People in this community experience many problems but the most concerning issue is about the youth. A number are involved in petty crimes and robbery, and many are not in school.

“The out-of-school youth is an alarming issue to the barangay (village) officials of Barangay 23-C, we continue to give solutions to this problem through the Alternative Learning System offered for the people in the community, but most of them hesitate to grab the opportunity because according to them it is better to find a job and earn money in an instant than to spend years in education,” Rey Cabaron, Lupong Tagapamayapa of Purok 4D Barangay 23-C, said.

Young Badjaos in the community inherit their way of living from the older Badjaos, which is selling pearls and ukay-ukay, fishing, and sometimes begging. The misguided ones steal.

“Illegal gambling is rampant in the community,” Cabaron said. The money used by the youth involved in illegal gambling is usually from the money they earn through begging.

“Kasagaran gyud maapil aning kawat diri kay ang mga batan-on siguro tungod sa kalisod ug kakulangan sa pasilidad (Most of the people who are involved in this community’s robbery cases are minors, maybe because of poverty and lack of resources),” Rachel Cabuenas, a resident, said.

Most of the houses in Purok 4D, Barangay 23-C are made of wood that’s why robbers can easily gain entry.

“Ginakawatan gyud mi mga alas 12 pagmatulog mi usahay sinina ang ginakawat ginabaligya sa lain lugar. Dili na lang mi manukol kung mangawat sila kay naa silay dala nga sundang usahay kutsilyo. Mahadlok gyud mi para sa among sarili ug pamilya (Robbers usually steal at midnight while we sleep, they steal our clothes and sell them to other places, they bring knives when they rob houses that’s why many of us just let them be lest they harm our families),” Bina, a young Badjao, said.

Aside from the residents, storeowners are usually the main target of robbers.

“Katong June niaging tuig kay nakawatan mi diri sa computeran sunodsunod gyud nga adlaw pero sukad nga nagpataod mig CCTV nasakpan namo na ang mga nagapangawat diay kay mga menor de edad. Dili man sad gud ta kapapriso ana kay menor de edad man maong magbalikbalik lang ba salig kay bata lagi (We were robbed several times in June 2016 in our internet shop. But since we installed a CCTV, the theft has been reduced. The thieves are minors, thus, they don't go to jail. That's the reason too why they keep on stealing, they know they can get away with it) ,” Marcela Mansueto, a computer shop owner, said.

Village officials experience a hard time in dealing with robbery cases because there are also robbers from outside the community.

“We now have a 24-hour PNP service and we have barangay tanods who monitor the community 24/7 in case of emergency. Compared last year, there are more barangay tanods and purok leaders who are assigned in their designated areas of the community,” Cabaron said.

Each of the assigned purok leaders in the village also takes part in stopping robbery in the community. They roam around the community in hopes of achieving a safer community.

“Bisan opisyal na ko sa barangay nakasinati gihapon ko ug kawat diri maong gusto nako tabangan gyud ang mga residente diri sa Isla Verde maong Naga-roving gyud ko kada gabi ikauban ang mga barangay tanod kay mas uso gyud ang kawat basta gabii (Even though I'm a purok leader, we were still robbed. That is why I want to help the Isla Verde residents. We do patrols every night along with barangay tanods because robbers prey at night),” Jovencio Mansueto, purok leader of Prk 4D, said.

Despite the prevalence, the community has not given up on cracking down on crime.

“We have programs from the city government that address the problems of our community. We are monitoring the area every now and then to put an end to illegal gambling, which is interconnected to robbery,” Cabaron said.

The higher office who is responsible for the children in conflict with the law is the CSSDO. They conduct counseling for minors who are committing crimes. But the CSSDO can only hold the minors for a specific period after which they have to return the children to their parents. The parents themselves undergo counseling and community service before the child is returned to them.

But, despite the problems raised by the residents, the CSSDO said very few children in conflict with the law from Purok 4, Barangay 23-C, Isla Verde were sent in their office for counseling.

It is apparent that indeed, the residents are letting the children be for fear that these CICLs will harm their families. But as a consequence, the CICL are literally allowed to roam freely and commit crimes with impunity.