Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V, No. 36      October 16 - 22, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Doing Time in the Company of Hardened Criminals
Second of four parts

by Mylene 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).

Artwork 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 cases).

“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.

Negative effects

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

Children on Death Row and the Child-unfriendly Justice System
Third of four parts

Slow Justice for Detained Children
Last of four parts




© 2005 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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