Crisis center for abuse victims, troubled kids not fully operational
posted 3-Feb-2019  ·  
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With Congress seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 12 years old, the province of Catanduanes will have to provide much-needed funding for the full operation of the Provincial Crisis Center for the mandatory intervention program for Children In Conflict with the Law (CICL).

According to the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), the crisis center built on a 2,000-square meter lot at San Isidro Village in Virac has yet to function fully to house CICLs as well as women and children who are victims of abuse. The facility consists of a two-storey building to be used exclusively by CICLs while an L-shaped one-storey building will be devoted to women and children.

More than a year after the buildings were completed, the facility still lacks beddings and a fence to separate the two buildings. Funding for the full complement of trained personnel has yet to be provided in the provincial budget, with its guards and other personnel employed on job-order basis and under the supervision of a social worker attached to the PSWDO.

The construction of the CICL facility was funded by P5 million during former Governor Araceli Wong’s stint while the new edifice was financed solely by the P7 million the administration of Gov. Joseph Cua got as incentive for its having won the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

An official source informed the Tribune that pending the procurement of the needed supplies and materials as well as the fence, the Cua administration is set to apply with the DSWD regional office for the accreditation of the facility.

Statistics from the Catanduanes Police Provincial Office’s Women and Children Protection Center show that from Dec. 9. 2017 to Dec. 31, 2018, the local police recorded a total of 63 violations committed by minors below 18 years of age.

Nearly half of the cases were of theft (15) and physical injuries (13), along with nine cases of rape, eight incidents of reckless imprudence resulting in injury, six cases of child abuse, and two each of illegal gambling and reckless imprudence resulting to damage to property.

There were one case each of acts of lasciviousness, attempted rape, frustrated homicide, malicious mischief, carnapping, illegal fishing, robbery and alarm and scandal.

Eight of the CICLs were female, with six of them 15 to 18 years of age. The other 73 CICLs were male, of which 41 were 15-18 years old and 25 were 12-15 years old.

Forty-four were in high school, 27 were elementary pupils while the remaining 10 were out-of-school youths.

According to the report, only eight of the CICLs were found to have acted with discernment when they committed the crimes while 73 did not think what they were doing was wrong at the time.

Majority of the victims refused to file a complaint, with only eight cases filed in court. Fifty-three of the children were turned over to their parents or guardians, 19 were placed in the custody of the local social welfare and development office, six were in the care of barangays, while six remain at large.

Last week, representatives passed on second reading House Bill (HB) 8858, which seeks to lower the criminal liability age to 12.

Under the measure, a child 12 to 18 years old who commits a serious crime would be sent to the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center inside the nearest youth care facility or Bahay Pag-asa.

The bill enumerates serious crimes to include parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, serious illegal detention where the victim is killed or raped, or violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that is punishable by more than 12 years imprisonment.

CICLs less than 18 years old at the time of the offense are exempt from criminal liability but not from civil liability. They would undergo an intervention program..

But if the CICL is proven to have acted with discernment, they would be subjected to appropriate intervention and diversion proceedings.

Those below 12 years old would be brought back to the custody of their parents or guardians and then then undergo a community-based intervention program to be conducted by a local social welfare officer.

While penalties to be imposed on CICLs would be two degrees lower compared those for adults, they could face up to 12 years in prison if the offense has a punishment is equal to life imprisonment.

If the CICL reaches 18 years old and has yet to reform, he or she would be sent to government-run  agricultural camps or training centers, to be set free upon reaching 25 years old.

On the other hand, the bill transfers jurisdiction over the Bahay Pag-asa from LGUs to the DSWD, with funds guaranteed under the national budget.

 Parents or guardians of the CICL would have to undergo a mandatory intervention program as well, or face stay in prison for 30 days or up to 6 months in prison. They would also be primarily liable for the civil damages to be caused by the actions of the CICL, unless they can prove in court that they exercised "reasonable supervision" over the CICL to prevent them from committing the offense.

Exploiters of the CICL would face 12 to 20 years in prison if the crime committed has a punishment equivalent to 6 years of jail time. If the punishment is more than 6 years in prison, the exploiter would face life imprisonment or up to 40 years in prison.

A social welfare worker would assess whether or not the initial intervention program is working, including identifying physical and mental issues, substance abuse, and family issues of the CICL.

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