“Poverty is the main reason why children are driven away from their homes and wander in the streets” — Alma Acera, advocacy officer, Tambayan Center for Children’s Rights
By ALEX D. LOPEZ
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) announced on Thursday its intensified monitoring and roundup drive to rescue abandoned and homeless children from the city streets.
Grace Frias, CSSDO’s chief of Children’s Concern Division, said the move is in line with the mandate of the Local Children’s Code to rescue children from risks.
Thus, the local government is now fast-tracking the completion of the renovated building to house and accommodate children rescued by the Quick Response Team for Children’s Concern.
City Ordinance No. 2491 or the Children’s Welfare Code was enacted on February 14, 1996. It declared that the children’s right to survival, protection, participation and development must be given high priority by the city.
The local code, Frias said, also “provides interventions that include counseling and sending (street kids) back to their respective places of origin.”
Among the interventions institutionalized by the local government is the “Balik Probinsya Program” where rescued street children are re-integrated to their respective communities and families.
But the program is not enough, Frias admitted, as setbacks are also experienced especially when re-integrated children return to the streets of Davao City.
“Daghan ang kaso asa nagabalik gihapon ang mga bata sa city human sila napahiluna og balik sa ilang panimalay (There are a lot of cases when children go back to the city after their re-integration),” Alma Acera, advocacy officer of Tambayan Center for Children’s Rights, lamented.
Acera recommended that a mechanism must be put in place especially in the locality where these children live. “Basig didto pa gyud ang problema nganong nagabalik pa sila (Maybe the problem lies on where they come from),” Acera pointed out.
“Poverty is the main reason why children are driven away from their homes and wander in the streets,” Acera said.
In most cases, Frias said, street children in Davao come from nearby provinces. She added, they are driven to abandon their homes mainly because of poverty and physical abuse.
CSSDO is now coordinating with the provinces and localities where these children originate. The effort is aimed at formulating measures to address the root causes why these children return to the city after interventions were done.
However, the other danger, Frias said, is the vulnerability of these children to crimes and addiction.
Data from CSSDO showed that from 2007 to 2011, there are a total of 714 children in conflict with law (CICL) or those who were involved in crimes against persons. Another 400 children were implicated in crimes against property and 204 on crimes against public order.
CSSDO admitted that there are children who are considered habitual offenders, coming in and out of police precincts for their involvement in petty crimes like theft.
Republic Act 9344 provides that children 15 years and below who are involved in crimes bear no responsibility and must be turned-over to their families and communities. The law likewise says that children between 15 to 18 years old, but acted with discernment upon commission of a crime shall undergo rehabilitation and diversion programs.
Frias said there is a need to strengthen the intervention in barangay (village) levels and the families concerned. The local government recently hired a number of Barangay Family Case Workers deployed to different villages and tasked to attend to CICL cases.
She lamented, though, the lack of funds despite the mandate of allocating one percent from the total amount of the Internal Revenue Allotment of every village for children’s program especially on CICL cases. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)World