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Thursday, October 27, 2016
Philippines: Fr Shay Cullen writes on children in jail
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┬áBengie is a 14 year old, picked up by police on the streets of Manila accused for stealing food from a vendor's stall and held for weeks in local police station mixed in with thieves, accused rapists and even child abusers. The Preda social workers found Bengie and negotiated his release and transfer to the Preda Boys Home under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law (RA 9344) enacted in 2006. Unless the social workers go look in every police station and neighbourhood substation the children will not be helped by the law. Much has to be done to educate the police and change the practice. Strong voices in the Philippines and around the world are calling on President Gloria Macapagal - Arroyo to issue an order to change the practice and order the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to take custody of the children as soon as they are arrested. Since the RA 9344 law was passed there is a small improvement and some children are referred to the home by passing the jail. But much needs to be done and it will take at least two years for the law to be disseminated and implemented. Children are held now in police stations' cells while charges are brought before a prosecutor and then to a judge. This can take weeks or months before the court orders them to be turned over to the Preda Home or the DSWD. The children have not been charged or judged guilty while in the police cells and if 15 years and below they are not even criminally liable and if above that age it has to be proved that they acted with discernment. Yet they are still jailed in unhealthy, dangerous and frightening cells with adults. But the police and the Department of Social Welfare and Development will not take custody of the child unless there is court decision passing jurisdiction to them or to the central child prison. There are many more kids like Bengie in the Philippines and in many developing countries where the police are less educated, don't understand the law or fail to implement it due to the lack of supervision and accountability. Jailing of children is routine despite the fact that is forbidden by Philippine laws such as the Special Child Protection Act [RA 7610 Article VI(10)(a)], the Presidential Decree 603 and R.A. 9344. The abusive practice, detrimental and dangerous to the child is forbidden by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [Article10(2)(b)], and the Convention on the Rights of the Child [Article 37(c)]. Charities and non-government agencies like the Preda Foundation are working around the clock to visit police stations, locate child prisoners and get their release by citing the legal provisions that allow the child be brought to a children's home. It is now full, a measure of success, and a new one is needed. Last January 2007 a delegation from the Justice Parish of Graystones in County Dublin, Ireland came to visit the Preda centres and prepare the way for the visit of twenty young people to the PREDA children's home three hours north of Manila overlooking Subic Bay. Led by charismatic Father Dave Halpin and four parish representatives visited the central prison for children, named CRADLE and found 120 youth and child prisoners there behind bars. The youngest there is eight years old. The justice parish of Graystones is supporting several projects in the developing world and are fund raising to help build a new home for the kids rescued from jails. This May there is a unique fund raising activity called ┤hard labourí. Hundreds of parishioners have signed up to break stones like child labourers for half an hour each throughout a 24-hour period and donate what they get from sponsors. With the stones they will make a "pathway to freedom", it will cross the parish lawn to a stature of a small boy holding up the broken handcuffs. It was carved in the Philippines based on a real boy saved from prison by Preda. There are many like Bengie still waiting to be helped and released and if breaking stones will give them a new home then let's break stones. For more information see:
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