UCA News

Philippines

Uncertain future for Philippines' freed child prisoners

A court did not say if the children will be released to their parents or to safe and open care homes

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Uncertain future for Philippines' freed child prisoners

Clarita Alia, 62, who lost four sons to what she and human rights groups believe were death squads, shows pictures of her sons at home in Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao on May 8, 2016. (Photo: Noel Celis/AFP)

Share this article :
The Philippine Supreme Court has issued two circulars ordering the release of qualified persons deprived of liberty. These have resulted in the release of almost 10,000 prisoners from the country's grossly overcrowded jails.

The Preda Foundation launched a campaign on April 17 with an article published in The Manila Times and online appealing to Philippine authorities to free some prisoners from jails, especially minors detained in subhuman, overcrowded conditions in youth detention centers called Bahay Pag-asa.

I asked good-hearted people everywhere to appeal to Philippine authorities to set the children free, release some prisoners and to have the most important value shown and taught by Jesus of Nazareth — compassion.  Yes, compassion and concern for the lives of children detained and other prisoners facing a death sentence from Covid-19. The pandemic is sweeping through Philippine jails.

In the April 17 article titled "Free the Child Prisoners Before They Die," I wrote: “Let’s think of the prisoners jailed unjustly for years. Many of them are political prisoners and human rights activists caged like animals, and above all, they who suffer most — the children behind bars. All are in danger of the coronavirus.” 

The column was picked up by social media and widely circulated and with other appeals has reached the Supreme Court, which has shown compassion and concern and made possible the release of 10,000 prisoners forthwith. 

However, the Supreme Court circulars did not specifically mention if the children and youth detained in the local government-managed Bahay Pag-asa will be released to the custody of their parents or transferred to safe and open care homes like that of the Preda Foundation.

The Juvenile Justice Welfare Council that oversees the implementation of the juvenile justice law, of which Preda is a member, released instructions that make it easy for the children to be transferred or released if they are detained without trial or are charged with minor offenses. Judges are advised by the Supreme court to grant reasonable bail or defer court hearings and release minors into house arrest.

Local mayors have the responsibility of saving the children from the Covid-19 pandemic that seems so indiscriminate and spares no one. In effect, without hospital care, the pandemic strangles or suffocates the victim, a very painful traumatic death, isolated and alone. Preda has written to many mayors appealing for compassion, mercy, concern and freedom for these children. I will report the result soon.

Detained children sleep on concrete floors in bare, dirty dark cells, many without charges filed against them. These children without charges could be freed tomorrow by order of the mayor. This is more urgent than ever as evidence revealed recently shows many small children as young as 10 mixed with semi-adults are bullied, beaten and abused.

Filipinos love their children, but do they have any love and compassion for those without parents and detained for living on the streets, homeless and hungry? Caring for them, no matter what other good one does, is essential to the life of a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Besides praying the Our Father, we have to act. Without action for justice and freedom and without care for the abandoned, strangers, the poor and imprisoned, faith and prayer are dead, St. James tells us. What have the Christian churches done or will they do to stop the physical and sexual abuse of small children in society and in the Bahay Pag-asa?

I wrote to Persida Rueda-Acosta, the chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), to request that PAO lawyers assigned to courts be directed to apply for the release of the youth on recognizance to their parents or to the Preda Foundation. 

The charity is capable and willing to accept them and keep them safe from Covid-19. In the Preda homes, they will be given care, therapy, education and vocational training and family reconciliation. The Supreme Court ruling allows for prisoners held for cases of lower penalty to be released on recognizance.

We now direct our appeal to PAO lawyers to immediately file motions for release on recognizance of the children to their families or to a professionally managed home like the Preda Foundation, where the children will be safe and get a chance for a new life, and to family court judges to show their compassion and concern for children and youth in local government-managed youth detention centers and Bahay Pag-Asa.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sexual abuse. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."