Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday that the current system of funding for “Bahay Pag-asa” child-caring reform centers needs to be rethought.
In a radio interview, Senator Lacson proposed that rather than local government units (LGUs) financing the establishment and maintenance of “Bahay Pag-asa” centers, it should be the national government allocating the funding for these projects.
Currently, the present law mandates local government units to allocate 1 percent of their internal revenue allotment for youth care programs and facilities catering to children at risk or in conflict with the law. Included in these is the “Bahay Pag-asa” program.
Sen. Lacson’s comments come on the heel of Tuesday’s recent deliberations conducted by the Senate justice panel on two measures seeking to lower the age of criminal liability from the current 15 years old. Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who authored one the measure proposing to lower the age of crimilal liability to 12 years old and above, expressed hope that the chamber will prioritize the passage of these juvenile justice bills before the 17th Congress ends.
Youths in conflict with the law would be assigned for reformation in facilities such as “Bahay Pag-asa” centers. However, Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council executive director Tricia Oro has described some of these centers as “worse that jails”.
According to Oro, the environment cultivated in these centers is not one that is conducive to the rehabilitation of at-risk youths.
Senator Lacson proposed the failure of the program in part stems from a lack of funding and institutional support.
“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.
Senator Franklin Drilon has said that the 2019 national budget has no funds appropriated in it for the construction of “Bahay Pag-asa” centers.
Senate President Sotto agreed that funding for the centers should not shouldered by LGUS, rather these taken from the allocations given the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Department of Health (DOH).
“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.