Gatchalian: If Valenzuela can do it, why can’t others?
Valenzuela City has been successfully running a Bahay Pag-asa for juvenile offenders and this is why Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, its former mayor, is against his colleagues’ proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12.
Gatchalian said that if Valenzuela City was able to operate a youth reformation center as required under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, there was no reason to amend the law.
According to him, 75 percent of the children brought to Valenzuela’s Bahay Pag-asa have returned to their families and were able to continue their studies. Some of them were even able to enter the University of the Philippines, he said.
The city also teamed up with religious groups to offer spiritual intervention for the children.
“So if there is the proper facility, the proper intervention program, and the local government unit will do its job, the children have hope,” Gatchalian told reporters.
“My point is we did not give the Juvenile Justice Act the chance to be implemented,” he said, adding: “If we were able to do it in Valenzuela, I am sure it can be done in the other localities.”
Local governments should be required to do their part in implementing the law, he said.
He noted that the law required Bahay Pag-asa centers to be built in 81 provinces and 33 highly urbanized cities. But in Metro Manila, only two cities have complied with the law.
Put pressure on local officials
“What are the other [cities] which are highly urbanized like Valenzuela doing? It’s really pushing local governments to put up the Bahay Pag-asa,” Gatchalian said.
He said he did not believe that highly urbanized cities do not have the funds, adding that they could always ask for help from the national government.
A proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 12 is gaining traction in Congress.
But child rights advocates say that instead of treating youth offenders as criminals, they should be given proper care.
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