Drugs blamed for kids getting into more serious crimes
DIGOS CITY — Social workers in at least four Mindanao cities are facing a dangerous mix of drugs and wayward children, which is changing their view about whether youth offenders should be treated like adult criminals or victims of society’s ills.
In this city, social welfare officer Fe Navidad said she had not seen children commit very serious crimes and get hooked on drugs in 10 years.
Ten years ago, most cases involving stowaway kids were theft, she said.
Drugs and substance abuse changed all that, Navidad said.
“It’s getting out of bounds,” she said. “They’ve leveled up compared to those 10 years ago,” she added.
“Illegal drugs changed it all,” Navidad said.
She cited the case of a 16-year-old boy accused of killing a 47-year-old widow and injuring her son early this month.
The boy, who had been addicted to drugs, was now in a halfway house for juvenile offenders but had grown violent that authorities wanted him moved to a rehab center.
Navidad said the social welfare officer handling the boy refused to take him into custody anymore and recommended that he be transferred to a regular jail.
In three other Mindanao cities, social workers reported the same cases involving children and drugs.
Lorna Bato, a social welfare officer in Zamboanga City, said most of the 14 minors in the custody of the social welfare office were involved in drugs.
The two top offenses being committed by children in the city, she said, were drug pushing and rape.
In Iligan City, a youth center is keeping custody of three girls involved in cyber porn and 12 boys involved in drugs.
Jec Sacan, an officer handling children involved in crimes, said the children in his office’s custody were aged 15-17.
In Gingoog City, Sacan said seven children were being kept at a rehabilitation center for youths. Three of them were involved in drugs, Sacan said.
In Pagadian City, two of 14 children in the custody of social workers were involved in substance addiction. In the children’s case, it was solvent.
Myrna Kwan, a social welfare officer who took charge of the children in Pagadian, some children in her custody had been charged with crimes that only adults were known to commit in the past.
Adora Alivio, Pagadian City social welfare officer, said she, too, found children to be violent nowadays.
She cited cases of children who had joined gangs and get involved in riots that had become a peace and order concern in Pagadian.
Digos City’s Navidad said the social welfare office was ready to help children addicted to “shabu” (crystal meth) or solvents but it did not have a list of names of children involved in drugs.
Supt. Deozar Almasa, Digos City police chief, said he was not aware of any list.
Almasa said police were mandated by law to keep the identities of child offenders confidential. —Eldie Aguirre, Julie Alipala, Divina Suson and Leah Agonoy
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