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Compassion necessary for juvenile offenders: priest

Some in the Philippines are advocating for street children and children in conflict with the law to be charged and jailed, but those urging for it are unaware of the harsh realities, writes Fr Shay Cullen SSC for the St Columbans Mission Society.

Image from the article on the St Columban's Mission Society website Image from the article on the St Columban's Mission Society website
  • Philippines
  • September 21, 2011
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It’s back to the dark ages for the hysterical tabloid press in Metro Manila where the bellowing newscasters and commentators are condemning street children and children in conflict with the law as criminals. The most strident commentators call for the children to be charged and jailed and reduce the age of criminal liability to 12 years old or younger. (Father Shay Cullen SSC, St Columbans Mission Society)

They demand that the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act be changed. This act, Republic Act 9344, is a landmark legislation of compassion that seeks to restore the deprived life of children in conflict with the law.

It says that children younger than 15 have an alternative to harsh, cruel prison life where enough of them have been raped, abused, beaten and starved in sub-human conditions. They can be helped, given a chance of an education and rehabilitation through meeting their basic human rights, nutritional needs and education. However, up to a million children and minors from the teeming slums frequent the streets and join gangs to survive. Many hundreds of youth are still jailed in conditions not even fit for animals.

Those who advocate the repeal of the law don't know the reality.

They are branding the street children as the tools of the criminal syndicates which the police are either too scared to oppose or are in cahoots with. Instead of exposing the criminal syndicates and their wealthy masterminds, the irresponsible commentators are setting up the street kids as targets for the death squads.

Not only that, a few commentators, after giving a tirade condemning the street kids over the radio or TV and arousing fear and hatred against them, they launch their own text-in surveys, then use this survey result to justify their continued condemnation of the children. The one straight forward solution is to feed and educate the young and give jobs with a living wage to the older teenage youth.

The death squads too are busy killing hundreds of street youth in recent years and doing their bloody butchering work with a nods and winks from their political backers and incompetent police.

The latest, most gruesome, has been the killing of three youths, 13 and 14, tied, gagged, tortured and stabbed a hundred times and thrown as garbage in a ditch in Zamboanga City to the eternal shame of the politicians, police and citizens. Their muffled screams still cry out for justice and mercy. But there is none.


The Return to the Dark Ages (St Columbans Mission Society)
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