The perennial problem on street children and juvenile delinquents indeed takes a share on our pie of social issues. By all means, these children need to survive and if being delinquent is an option, certainly without hesitation, they’ll be one.
Six years ago, CNN has reported the unrestrained arrest of young offenders here in the Philippines. Apparently, such news has gathered global attention which has somehow led to the creation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act 2006 signed by former president of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Under the legislation, children under the age of 15 cannot be charged with a crime. For 15 to 18-year-old juveniles, diversion away from court is the preferred method for responding to crimes that carry a possible sentence of six years or less.
Unfortunately, as of the present, a hefty crisis arose when some juvenile delinquents were reportedly being used by syndicates for their illegal transactions such as drug peddling. Not only that, an actual crime was captured by CCTV cameras along the national highways of Metro Manila. They named the offenders “bukas-taxi boys,” reported by national television networks. Since these children are protected by the latter law, there is a big chance for these children to become chronic delinquents and eventually tough criminals if not stopped.
With this, some senators moved that children nine years old and above should be put to prison if proven guilty for a committed crime in order to, if not eradicate, lessen the number of crimes committed by these delinquents. Such proposal has generated various remarks from different organizations and social communities.
With all conviction, I strongly believe that imprisoning these poor children is not the rightful response to the problem. No one is born a criminal. Some of these children wake up every morning just to get painful ridicules from their mother or a hard punch from their father. Many are unluckily exposed to the morbid world of crime and are greatly susceptible to drug addiction, drug pushing, theft, and prostitution.
Instead of putting these pitiful children behind cold bars, why cannot those who are responsible for crime prevention focus their attention to the real perpetuators? As what a famous cliché says “in order to get rid of a grass, one should unearth its roots first.” Sad to say, however, most of these street children become delinquents either because of social status (they belong to an indigent family) or by force (through crime syndicates).
Also, we have agencies that are supposed to give assistance to these children such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). This agency should be empowered so that they could fulfill their responsibilities accordingly.
I still believe that the youth is the future of this land. And putting them behind cold bars might just be one great problem.