Doing Time in the Company of Hardened Criminals
Buensuceso, Ronald Caraig, Likha Cuevas, and Jenielle Marie Enojo
According to the latest Save the
Children-UK Philippines (SCUK-Phils) study, poverty is the root of
juvenile crimes. It involves committing a violation while in the process
of carrying out one’s livelihood or in the act of survival. Most juveniles
resort to stealing because of hunger.
“Ginawa ko lang
naman po yon kasi ako lang ang inaasahan sa pamilya namin. Panganay ako
at ako ang nagpapa-aral sa mga kapatid ko”
(I did it because my family depends on me.
I am the eldest and I send my siblings to school), said Rommel (not his
real name), accused of attempted robbery and currently detained at the
Muntinlupa City Jail.
A 14-year old child detainee housed at Molave confessed that he stole a
pair of pants from a department store so he could give his younger brother
a gift. He said that he did not know that he could be jailed for
committing such an act. He thought that if he got caught, he would only be
asked by the owner of the store to pay for that item.
According to the DSWD,
the three most common crimes that the children in conflict with the law (CICL)
commit are theft, attempted theft, and qualified theft (1,279 cases).
by children at the Manila Youth Reception Center
The second in the list are robbery,
hold-up, robbery with serious physical injuries and frustrated robberies
(603 cases). The third are rape, attempted rape and statutory rape (363
“Kahit naman po
saan, kulungan pa rin yan, eh. Wala akong pagpipilian, saan man ako
mapunta pareho lang na hindi ko makikita ang pamilya ko”
(It does not matter where, it’s still a
jail. I have no basis for choosing, wherever I go I will still be unable
to see my family), said Ted (not his real name), accused of
murder detained at one of the city jails in Metro Manila.
Ted was 15 at the
time he was brought to the jail, and after four hearings, he admitted
killing a lesbian who allegedly molested his crush. He said that he does
not mind being in an adult jail because they, as minors, have a separate
cell. He has not given up on his future. Although he pleaded guilty, he
knows he will have a lighter sentence as a result. His fear, however,
begins the moment he gets out of jail, particularly how the people in his
community would accept him.
There are also cases,
according to Jail Officer 3 (JO3) Pablito Sison of Muntinlupa City Jail,
where the CICL adapt to the ways of the adult offenders and later copy
them. But most CICL complain that their families hardly visit them since
the day they were sent to jail.
According to the Cebu
study of the SCUK-Phils, most of the 93 CICL shared that their experience
in jail affected their lives negatively. The social workers and jail staff
who were interviewed confirmed this.
Most of the CICL were
first offenders. Moreover, they were concerned about finding work, afraid
that they would be teased if they return to school or worried about the
general prejudice from society.
On the other hand,
some claimed that being detained did not affect their life, adding that
they have become hardened and were no longer afraid of jail and of
committing other offenses. As one correctional staff member shared, “Some
CICL were like puppies when they first entered the jail; a few days later,
they become rough.”
DSWD Director Finard
Cabilao said that even the “jail-style” look of the homes for the CICL has
an effect on these children. “Ang problem kasi, it is still managed by
BJMP, minsan kasama ang social welfare of Quezon City.
(The problem is, it is still
managed by the BJMP and it is only seldom for the social welfare
department of Quezon City to forge partnerships with it.) But in Manila,
those who handle the youth homes are purely civilians, and that is
true for most detention centers,” he said.
The “home concept” of
these youth homes is often violated because they have grills. They also do
not have enough water, beds and beddings, eating utensils and educational
activities. The common reason among them is that they do not have the
budget to be able to provide these facilities and programs to the CICL.
The SCUK-Phils study
also revealed, “The lack or absence of serious rehabilitation program in
custodial centers was also common. Children were found to experience
boredom in jails, with the monotony of routine pushing them to escape. It
was also observed that very few of the CICL are able to go out to attend
school. Reintegration planning was also found to be minimal.” Bulatlat
Playground Behind Bars
First of four-part series
on Death Row and the Child-unfriendly Justice System
Third of four parts
Justice for Detained Children
Last of four parts
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© 2005 Bulatlat
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