By PMT News Desk
COTABATO CITY – In pursuit of inclusive and responsive administration, the fledgling Bangsamoro governance has embarked on providing focal attention to locked-up juvenile or children in conflict with the law, the Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news learned Wednesday.
This time, concerned members of Parliament (MPs) of the Bangasamoro Transition Authority (BTA) guide the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) in building edifices called “bahay pag-asa” to provide rehabilitative atmosphere for juveniles in prisons where traditional lockup cells failed and thus, compounded spoilage in the youth sector.
In an interview with the PMT over the phone Wednesday, MP Eduard Guerra, an architect serving concurrently as MPH minister, confirmed the ongoing construction of “bahay pag-asa” buildings in Basilan and Sulu.
Guerra did not give details, but said the stride is something innovative that past administrations in the area of regional autonomy and even other regions in the country might have overlooked.
In separate phone interview, MP Raissa Jajurie, a lawyer and incumbent regional social welfare minister, said she is involved indirectly with the past planning and ongoing construction of the “bahay pag-asa” in Sulu because somehow the project’s focus forms part of the scope of operations of her ministry for the youth sector.
The BTA Parliament’s Information Division, in a statement, said MP Laisa Alamia, a lawyer, led the ground-breaking ceremony recently for the construction of the “bahay pag-asa” in Basilan, particularly in Lamitan City.
Alamia, a former regional chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and erstwhile executive secretary of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the construction of “bahay pag-asa” is fleshing out public clamor for fortified juvenile justice and welfare system in the succeeding autonomous region.
Republic Act 10630, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, prescribes for the establishment of “Bahay Pag-asa” as a 24-hour caring institution for children in conflict with law (CICL).
In 2015, the defunct social welfare department of ARMM which Alamia also once led as secretary, had recorded and dealt with 72 CICL broken down at 36 in Maguindanao, 29 in Sulu, and seven in Tawi-Tawi. In the data were, there was no disaggregation by demographics by age or nature of alleged offense and the diversionary measure applied.
“Every time we talk about children in conflict with the law, it fills us with deep regret whenever we realize that a 12-year-old has already spent three years in the provincial jail or detention center with adults and was left there with little support or supervision” Alamia said in the Parliament statement.
“Imagine, a child has already lost opportunities to learn and study in school. He could have been under rehabilitation and recovery while his case was pending,” she added.
Alamia emphasized the state’s role in protecting the rights of children at risk and children in conflict with the law.
“If we want a child rights-compliant juvenile justice system,” she said, “we need to have proper care and rehabilitation services, and this requires adequate child-friendly rehabilitation facilities with a functioning system that upholds child’s rights across the country.”
“This is what the Bahay Pag-asa is for,” Alamia stressed.
Official data from the Child Rights Network show that of the 114 provinces and HUCs, 58 are operational and only eight have fully complied with the requirements set by the law as of November 2018.
None of these facilities are located in the BARMM, the Parliament statement said.
Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay, represented by City Administrator Ligaya Buenaventura, thanked the Office of MP Alamia, the MPW, the provincial government of Basilan, and all development partners present in the launching rite.
“We hope to advance the rights of children at risk and children in conflict with the law,” Buenaventura said, “and with the first-ever Bahay Pag-Asa in BARMM, we can protect and provide them with intervention to help them become better members of society.”
Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Anwari Akalun echoed the same sentiment in his message. He said they can now “better respond to the needs of children at risk and children in conflict with the law with the Bahay Pag-Asa” and described the groundbreaking event as historical. (AGM)