Parents of 10 minors aged 12 to 17 who are being detained at a youth facility are being denied their right to visit their children.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Jane” (not her real name), 37, has not seen her 17-year-old son who was nabbed by the police last Thursday, Aug. 31 after the clash between the residents of Sta. Lucia village in Pasig and the police. That day was the supposed demolition of the homes of informal settlers along the Manggahan floodway in Pasig. Jane said her son and nephew were on their way home when police saw them, hours after the clash.
“They just went to the mall to stroll around because his cousin just came from Bulacan,” she told the media weeping while waiting outside the mayor’s office in Pasig City Hall on Sept. 4. She and other parents of the minors together with National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) chairperson Liza Maza and Katherine Panguban, a lawyer from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) were supposed to have a dialogue with Pasig City Mayor Robert Eusebio. But the dialogue did not push through as Eusebio did not come out of his office.
Last Monday, Sept. 4, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza and Balikwas-Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) leader Rodrigo Villareal held a press conference at Floodway East Road Bank, Pasig where Maza received the letters of the residents for President Duterte.
After the press conference Maza, Elago and Panguban went to the Bahay Aruga Youth Facility to see the 10 minors who was put under custody after Aug. 31 violent dispersal. Reports have reached them that the minors, aged 12 to 17 years old were being maltreated in the said youth home.
But they were barred from entering the premises of Bahay Aruga. The day before, on Sept. 3, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Malou Turalde were also barred from seeing the children, even though Sunday was supposedly a family day.
Elago is calling for the immediate release of the minors as most of them were arbitrarily arrested in a hot pursuit operation last Aug. 31. Most of them were taken arbitrarily just like Jane’s son.
The NUPL filed a petition for habeas corpus on Tuesday, Sept. 5 after social workers refused to let the parents as well as visiting officials from seeing the children. Maria Kristina Conti, also one of the counsels of the minors said in her social media account that 12 and 13 year old minors were also released yesterday.
Given the runaround
On Sept. 4, Maza and Elago insisted to see the minors and their condition. The social worker in Bahay Aruga told them to talk to the Pasig Social Welfare Office, where they were told to get a permit from the mayor’s office to be able to talk to the social welfare officials. They then went to the mayor’s office but to no avail.
On Sept. 6, the GWP solons filed House Resolution 1286, urging the House Committee on Human Rights to probe Bahay Aruga Pasig Youth Facility’s denial of entry to Rep. Emmi De Jesus, Brosas, Elago, as well as NPAC’s Maza and DSWD’s Turalde.
The resolution also urged the committee to look into possible violations of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act for the prolonged custody of the 10 minors and for barring parents to see their children.
“Minors under the custody of a youth facility like Bahay Aruga should be available for visitation of parents, legal counsels and more so of public officials who wish to conduct an inspection as part of their duties. But this is not clearly the case based on our experience in Pasig City’s Bahay Aruga which seemed more like an untouchable fortress than a youth care center,” said Brosas in a statement.
Meanwhile, Jane hopes to see her son soon. She said he is the only income-earner in their family, working as a construction worker. A single mother, she said she cannot accept laundry now that she takes care of her youngest child who is less than one year old. She said her son is the only one helping her to make both ends meet.