MANILA — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the funding for the establishment and maintenance of child-caring reform centers or the “Bahay Pag-asa” should come from the national government.
In a radio interview, Lacson noted that several local government units have failed to provide funding for the creation and maintenance of these youth care facilities for the rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law.
He said the present law mandates local government units to allocate 1 percent of their internal revenue allotment for programs and youth care facilities catering to children at risk and in conflict with the law.
“May mga probinsya na baka hindi rin kayanin na magtayo at mag-maintain kasi hindi biro ang maintenance dito, ang pagtayo milyon na ito, baka tens of millions if not hundreds of millions… Sabi ng social welfare officer sa pagdinig kahapon, walang beds, walang facilities. (There are provinces that cannot afford to build and maintain [Bahay Pag-asa centers] because these require tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions [of pesos]. During the hearing yesterday, the social welfare officer said there were no beds, no facilities.),” Lacson said.
“So talagang naging halos dead letter law in terms of reforms at rehabilitation ng mga bata. Dapat talagang tutukan ang budget, napakaimportante. At dapat national government na ang mag-provide ng budget dito, huwag ipaubaya sa LGU (So, this almost seems like a dead letter law in terms of reforms and rehabilitation of children. This should be given particular attention in the budget. And, the national government should provide a budget for this and not be solely entrusted to LGUs [local government units]),” he added.
The Senate justice panel conducted its deliberations on two measures seeking to lower the age of criminal liability from the current 15 years old on Tuesday.
Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council executive director Tricia Oco said the Bahay Pag-asa centers do not provide a conducive environment for the rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law, describing the facilities as “worse than jails.”
Senator Franklin Drilon said there are currently no funds appropriated for the construction of Bahay Pag-asa centers in the 2019 national budget.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, author of the measure proposing to lower the age of criminality to 12 years old and above, said the chamber will prioritize its passage before the 17th Congress ends.
Sotto suggested that the funding for the Bahay Pag-asa centers could be allocated in the budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Health instead of the LGUs.
“That’s what we are going to do in this bill. Gagawin nating national pati funding (We’ll make even the funding to come from the national),” Sotto said.
Several senators have expressed opposition to the House of Representatives’ proposal to lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old.