re•cid•i•vist

noun

1. a convicted criminal who reoffends, especially repeatedly.

adjective

1. denoting a person who repeatedly reoffends.

Fernando. Not his real name. 15. Batang hamog (an indigent child denoting inclination toward crime).

Now at Bahay Pag-asa in Bago Oshiro, Davao City, Fernando shared why he ended up in the center.

“I needed to eat or else I’ll die,” Fernando shared in the vernacular. He tried to explain his misdeeds saying he only stole from those he thought were wealthy and can afford to lose some.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) reports, children who live and work on the streets in the major cities of the country are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, sexual exploitation, violence, and crime and drug abuse. Estimates of these children now reach about quarter of a million in major cities.

Unicef records 862 children at risk (CAR) and children in conflict with the law (CICL), 309 of which were from Davao City, as of 2012.

With this figure, the Davao Region Juvenile Justice and Welfare Committee (RJJWC Davao Region) was organized. The committee emanated from the Republic Act No. 10630 which amended Republic Act no. 9344, otherwise known as the "Juvenile Justice and Welfare act of 2006". The amendments included appropriating funds to address CICL and CAR.

According to social worker officer III and RJJWC Davao Region secretariat, Consolacion Abad, the National Juvenile Justice Welfare Committee thru its regional offices provide technical assistance to Local Government Units (LGUs) on the implementation on the committee’s program called Community-based Comprehensive Local Intervention on Juvenile Intensive Program (CBCLIJIP).

Data at RJJWC Davao Region showed that among the top committed offenses and crime mostly by children are Theft/Robbery/Hold-up/Snatching, alarm and scandal (riot), drugs/substance abuse (R.A 9165/PD1619), and curfew on minors/vagrancy, among others.

RJJWC Davao Region CICL’s and CAR’s cases share commonalities: 20 percent are neglected by their parents/families, 10 percent are exposed to domestic violence, 40 percent are OSY, 15 percent are exposed to community violence, 10 percent are influenced by peer pressure, and 5 percent are involved or a member of gang or fraternity.

BahayPag-asa, provided by the RA 10630, refers to a 24-hour child-caring institution established, funded and managed by local government units (LGUs) and licensed and/or non government organizations (NGOs) providing short-term residential care for children in conflict with the law who are above 15 but below 18 years of age who are awaiting court disposition of their cases or transfer to other agencies or jurisdiction.

A team composed of a social worker, a psychologist/mental health professional, a medical doctor, an educational guidance counselor and a Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) member operates the Bahay Pag-asa. The team is tasked to work on each child and the child’s family individually.

Apart from this, DSWD manages its own Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) which served 131 CICL cases during the first half of 2014.

In May, RJJWC Davao Region conducted supervisory and monitoring visit at Davao City’s Bahay Pag-asa for update on the cases served and programs and activities undertaken by the residents. The findings: it lacks facilities and manpower due to increase in clients. The individualized intervention now deemed impossible.

This shows the need for national and local governments to ensure that the structure created by law to protect the rights of children is funded and functional, that the proposed memorandum circular to monitor LGU compliance to Republic Act No. 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” must cover the four major mandates of local governments, which include: the allotment at least one percent of an LGU’s internal revenue allotment for the Local Councils for the Protection of Children; appointment of a Local Social Welfare and Development Officer to assist children in conflict with the law; development of a local, comprehensive juvenile intervention program; and, the establishment youth homes for CICLs.

As it is, there is but the apprehension, the assistance of the social worker, but there is little done for intervention and diversion, thus the recidivists. It’s catch-turnover-release-repeat. When it should be catch, turnover, divert/rehabilitate, re-integrate.